Suppose we have letters: a, b, c, d, e, f ,g.

I want to describe the position of letter "e" starting from right hand side, what should I use?

"e" is the last third letter.

"e" is the third last letter.

"e" is the last but two letters.

Which one is commonly used? Or other ways to describe it?


  • The only one of your suggestions which is right is "e" is the third last letter (though third from last is better.) For your third example, you could say "e" is the last letter but two (note letter is singular) but even then it is a little strange and confusing. Your first example "e" is the last third letter could only make sense if you wanted to say that there is a list of words of which you are interested in the third letter, and "e" is the third letter of the last word. English Language Learners stack exchange may be a better place for this question. Sep 16, 2014 at 9:35

3 Answers 3


Typically you'd expect to hear:

"e" is the third from last letter


"e" is the third to last letter

and you may sometimes hear

"e" is the last but two

  • It could also be "2 from last" and probably "second from last" depending on who you ask.
    – Jodrell
    Sep 15, 2014 at 13:14
  • 2
    As a Brit, I would say 3rd from last.
    – xorsyst
    Sep 15, 2014 at 15:27
  • 1
    I cede that "second from last" is more erroneous than ambiguous, but "2/two from last" clearly confuses things.
    – Jodrell
    Sep 15, 2014 at 15:37
  • 2
    As a Brit, I’d would usually just say “the third last letter”, no preposition required.
    – PLL
    Sep 15, 2014 at 19:06
  • 2
    You could also say "third from the end". Sep 16, 2014 at 0:47

The common usage would be "third to last". If you need a weird word, use antepenultimate or propenultimate:

"Two before the last, i.e., the one immediately before the penultimate, in a series."

This book has ten chapters — chapter 8 is the antepenultimate one.

(From Wiktionary)

  • 2
    +1 for "if you need a weird word" :)
    – leemes
    Sep 15, 2014 at 16:48
  • But antepenultimate doesn't generalize to other positions, does it? Can you keep adding prefixes, so the previous one is anteantepenultimate?
    – Barmar
    Sep 16, 2014 at 1:35
  • 2
    @Barmar: preantepenultimate :-) Sep 16, 2014 at 5:01
  • (pre)antepenultimate tends to be used in linguistics when describing the position of stress in a word (or short phrase) so there has generally not been the need to invent a long series of these. I think propreantepenultimate would not be widely understood and I know of nothing earlier than that. Sep 16, 2014 at 8:30

Antepenultimate means before the next to last.

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