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Say I'm comparing different models of a particular car. There are four models in total, each released a year apart. The current model would be the newest one, and the "prior" model would be the one before the newest one.

Is there an equivalent adjective that describes the model before the prior one? I could call it the "second-generation" model, but then that's no longer relative to whatever generation the current model is (unlike "prior," which always means "the one before the current one").

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If I were going back any further than two model years, I would probably just start referring to the actual year, e.g. "The 2006 Jetta had no spoiler by default." – Cameron Jul 10 '12 at 16:03
Also, this answer to a semi-related question addresses this issue a little bit. This question is similar, too. – Cameron Jul 10 '12 at 16:11
up vote 7 down vote accepted

In normal understandable speech it goes like this:

  • this year's model
  • last year's model
  • the model from the year before last


  • this one
  • the prior one
  • the one before the prior one.

More formally the adjectives are:

  • current or ultimate
  • penultimate
  • antepenultimate

but these latter adjectives are usually only used in very particular erudite circumstances, like where to put the stress on syllables in a word.

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You can use current, penultimate, and antepenultimate, but I suspect most people won't know what those mean. More productive would be to simply say "this year's", "last year's", "2 years ago", "3 years ago", etc. Or, as Cameron says, call them by year: 2012, 2011, 2010, etc.

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I agree that limiting oneself to a second-grade reading level is the optimal I mean best way to communicate I mean write. – tchrist Jul 10 '12 at 18:51
@tchrist I avoid using words that a large percentage of the people reading what I write won't understand. What would be the point? One such word in an article and the reader might look it up or figure it out from context. But more than that and they'll just find the article frustrating. When I write, my goal is to convey information to the reader, not to prove how smart I am. Sure, you could take this too far. When writing for college students I don't use 2nd-grade language. But when writing for the general public I don't use PhD language. – Jay Jul 11 '12 at 13:58

Prior suggests some sort of seniority to me, it is related to 'primo / first'. 'The bank has a prior charge over the property'.

'Previous' indicates time better, I think. You could try 'previous' and 'second previous'

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