what is the true phrase to refer something informally and formally which is not the last one, but one before the last?

4 Answers 4


It's not a phrase, but the name for an item which is next to last (in a list, or in an order) is penultimate. And although you didn't ask, the name for the item which is next to the next to the last is antepenultimate.

  • thanks. it seams a little formal. does it have any more casual equal?
    – user76406
    Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 7:04
  • 2
    The more casusal equivalent is "next to last", according to Wiktionary. As danph notes, there is a difference between US and UK usage. In US, penultimate usually means "next to last"; in UK, penultimate usually means "second to last".
    – brasshat
    Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 7:48

More casual than penultimate is second last, second to last, or second-to-last.

I did some queries in the COCA and BNC corpora, and it seems that second last is the more common form in British English. Second to last / second-to-last are more common in American English.


Another option is 'last but one' (for penultimate), and 'last but two' (for antepenultimate). Casually, I would say 'second last' (I speak a kind of British English), so it confirms what dangph said. I am also told Americans say 'the next to last'.


Casually, second-last can be used.

  • 2
    This answer has already been suggested.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 13:18

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