Is there a word to describe something that is not the first element in a sequence, but can be in any other position? A synonym of "not first", in fact.

This element is __ in this sequence.

  • I would probably say 'following' if the position is not known. – Roaring Fish Nov 4 '12 at 5:05
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    Why would this be a single word? None of suggestions improve upon the multiple-word version, and indeed, probably are substantially worse. – tchrist Nov 4 '12 at 16:38
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    Sometimes, there just isn't a single word for things. Like 'lexical gap'. What is a single word for that? – Mitch Nov 4 '12 at 22:02
  • @Mitch Lacuna. Irony eliminated. – Tortoise Nov 5 '12 at 0:44

10 Answers 10



The word has been used in literature on English grammar and other fields. Google books records, for instance:

"On the one hand, the finite verbal category seeks a noninitial position ..." -Géraldine Legendre, Jane Grimshaw, Sten Vikner: Optimality-Theoretic Syntax, 2001, p264.

"Noninitial stress may be found on any syllable of the word, and may or may not co-occur with initial stress." -Jean Ormsbee Charney: A grammar of Comanche, 1993, p41.

"Consequently, even for monosyllable words, CS and LEC factors can be distributed over different word positions in several ways: CS can be word initial (e.g., “quick”) or noninitial ..." -Peter Howell, Recovery from Stuttering, 1947, p155.

Wiktionary defines noninitial as Not initial.

  • Definitely the best answer. Even if "postliminary" can actually mean this, which I doubt, it will not be understood by most people. Everyone will understand "noninitial". – user18036 Nov 4 '12 at 14:12
  • @hpique True, research has taken considerable time as I wanted to make sure it's the best option, and find examples relevant to both the context and the user-level. – Kris Nov 5 '12 at 3:58

"This element is __ in this sequence."

While not a single word, surely this is the most logical alternative:

"This element is "after the first element" in this sequence."

I think subsequent would be grammatically correct, albeit somewhat of an awkward sounding sentence.

"This element is subsequent in this sequence."


You should look into things like later, non-initial, non-starting, postponed, and postpositive.

However, I do not think you should use a single word here. Use a clear and simple multiword construct instead. “Elements after the first” is just fine, and indeed preferable.

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    Only the second and the third word mean "not first" here. – user18036 Nov 4 '12 at 16:24

This element is postliminary in this sequence.

Postliminary means "following in position or time."

Or is defined as "done or carried on after something else: subsequent —opposed to preliminary."

Or as "subsequent, the opposite of preliminary."

(Note: Liminary means "placed at the beginning.")

  • While I choose this as the right answer, the rest contain other options that might be more appropriate depending on the context. – hpique Nov 4 '12 at 15:34
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    @hpique This is not a good answer. "Subsequent", "following in position or time", "done or carried on after something else" and "subsequent" all mean something different from what you are asking about. They don't mean "not first". It is also not true that "not first" is the opposite of "preliminary". – user18036 Nov 4 '12 at 16:20
  • @ymar I accepted it because of post-liminary, where liminary means "placed at the beginning". That said, happy to wait a bit more before accepting an answer. – hpique Nov 4 '12 at 16:52
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    @hpique "Liminary" is so rare that it's difficult to say what it means precisely. Probably nothing to most people, but it could also mean belonging to some unspecified initial fragment. "Postliminary" is also extremely rare. I'm convinced Kris' answer is what you are looking for. – user18036 Nov 4 '12 at 16:59
  • @ymar, The terms are not that uncommon. The are used in math and in medicine. Can you explain "it could also mean belonging to some unspecified intial fragment"? Where did that come from? – JLG Nov 5 '12 at 4:59

The word sequelae at first looks promising due to its etymology: from Latin sequela, from sequi ("follow"). However, it is specialized to a medical sense, “diseases or conditions which are caused by an earlier disease or problem”. OED also shows a rarely-used sense, “A person's followers”, that is a little more general. The noun follower itself, meaning “Something that comes after another thing”, is a better possibility, along with previously-mentioned adjective following (“Coming next, either in sequence or in time”).

Subsequent (“Following in time; coming or being after something else...”) was mentioned in passing in another answer. Aside from follower, it may be the best choice among common words. Also consider succedent (“That succeeds; succeeding, following”) and successor (“a person or thing that succeeds another”).

The slightly-odd word comeafters seems to be in common use among service dog trainers, apparently referring to things to train a dog on after prerequisite things have been trained on (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).


In the programming language Lisp, the term "head" and "tail" are used to refer to "the first item" and "everything but the first". Alternative form that are also used: "first" and "rest".

The element is the head of this sequence.
The element is in the tail of this sequence.


The element is first in this sequence.
The element is in the rest of the sequence.

"This element is (later on) in the sequence"



could be used to describe any element in a list except the first, much like subsequent, and with more or less the same limitations. Both are slightly awkward as they don't have just that single exclusive meaning, but I think these two are probably the best fit out of the available options, without any further context being given.

For the more pedantic people out there, I suppose nth(n>1) would cover it, but whether this counts a single word is dubious at best. As a more compact option, I would propose defining


as having the desired meaning. This has the added benefit of easily extending to concepts like items beyond the (n>1)th in a list.

  • “Oneth”? Really? – tchrist Nov 4 '12 at 21:48
  • @tchrist No worse than 0th, surely? – user3490 Nov 4 '12 at 21:52
  • But 1ˢᵗ, 2ⁿᵈ, and 3ʳᵈ have special forms. – tchrist Nov 4 '12 at 22:00
  • Those forms are not required for unknown nth, even when n might be in {1,2,3}, so why use them for (n>1)th? – user3490 Nov 4 '12 at 22:12
  • Because I don’t like seeing the th next to the 1. – tchrist Nov 4 '12 at 22:13

"This element is the second or later in this sequence."


"This element is (second) in this sequence." "This element is (third) in this sequence." "This element is (fourth) in this sequence." "This element is (fifth) in this sequence."

  • Clarified that the actual position of the element is not known. Just that it's not first. – hpique Nov 4 '12 at 2:06

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