We are purchasing a monitor and in an email someone wrote, "Bob, let's get two of these" and posted a URL.

If I were to followup, which would be more appropriate and why?

"I second that motion" or "I second that notion"?

Fact is, we can find plenty of books that say "second that notion" – in places like Ski magazine:

Lee Aaker, 57, of Mammoth, Calif, would second that notion. (2001)

or political commentary:

Ollie North calls the CIA/cocaine story "absolute garbage." I second that notion for two reasons...

but far more say "second that motion."

So, is second that notion a malapropism? Or just a lesser-used (but still valid) form?

  • 4
    I suppose that, for email, you could say, "I second that e-motion." Smokey Robinson would approve.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 21:52
  • If I could +1 this, I would. Edit:* I am new here, why am I being downvoted?
    – danchet
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 21:58
  • @J.R. beat me to it. Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 23:35
  • I suppose you could call it an eggcorn.
    – user28567
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 3:03

3 Answers 3


It's motion. It's more like the use of motion in law. It's a noun (i.e. you file a motion or move to do something). So if someone where to make a motion (make a suggestion), you would second it if you agree.

It's completely idiomatic, but that's the use of motion here; it's not a legal term.

Me: I move that we go out for dinner.
You: I second that motion!

  • 2
    Don't you think notion might work, too? If one can say, "I second that proposal," or "I second that idea," then I suppose "I second that notion" would be acceptable, too. From Time magazine, 2000: "As if to second that idea, Bill Clinton's plan last week, in its focus on enlarging existing programs, endorsed the Gore approach." From New Scientist, 1982: "Fortunately for Iceland, none of the 10 nations that voted for the zero quota felt able to second that proposal in plenary session, so the quota of 100 remains in force."
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 22:16

The correct phrase is "second that motion". It originates from parliamentary procedure and is commonly used in meetings of all kinds of clubs and organizations.

Wikipedia defines second thus:

In deliberative bodies a second to a proposed motion is an indication that there is at least one person besides the mover that is interested in seeing the motion come before the meeting.

and motion thus:

In parliamentary procedure, a motion is a formal proposal by a member of a deliberative assembly that the assembly take certain action.

Where "second that notion" is used, my guess is it's done knowingly as a pun or unknowingly as an error.


If this had been a parliamentary procedure, the answer would be easy: In the chambers of governmental legislative bodies, you second motions, not notions.

However, this wasn't a parliamentary procedure, it was an email saying, "Let's buy two of monitor X." That's hardly a formal motion, and I think it could be called an idea, proposal, suggestion, or notion just as easily as it could be called a motion. So the question becomes, can you second an idea, in the same way you can second a motion at a civic meeting?

NOAD reads:

second (verb) [ trans. ]
formally support or endorse (a nomination or resolution or its proposer) as a necessary preliminary to adoption or further discussion : Bertonazzi seconded Birmingham's nomination.
• express agreement with : her view is seconded by most Indian leaders today.

Similarly, Collins lists two meanings (Nos. 18 and 20):

second (verb)
18. to give aid or backing to
20. to make a speech or otherwise express formal support for (a motion already proposed)

If you are using the verb second in sense 20, I would staunchly recommend using motion. However, if you are using:

I second that notion.

to mean:

I support that idea.


I'd back that proposal.

then I think it's an acceptable usage (although you run the risk of something thinking you've said an eggcorn, when perhaps you haven't).

Perhaps you should simply say:

I second that idea.

to remove all doubt. If someone doesn't like that use of the verb second, you've got quite a few authors backing you up.

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