Secondhand (Second-hand, second hand)

Also:
At secondhand
Secondhand information
Secondhand account
Secondhand knowledge
Secondhand belonging (car, clothing, etc.)
Secondhand merchandise

Meaning of Idiom ‘Secondhand’ or ‘Secondhand Information’

1. Secondhand information is information that comes from someone who heard it from the firsthand source. This means that the information has come through two people, making it less reliable than firsthand information, which comes directly from the source.

2. A secondhand belonging, possession, or merchandise is something that was previously owned by another person and sold or given away by that person, i.e. used goods or ‘hand me downs.’ 1Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.,2Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

Usage

If the information has come through three people, then the term thirdhand is also possible. Even fourth hand or fifth hand can be used although they rarely are. People rarely use this idiom past secondhand or at the most thirdhand, especially since it becomes difficult to gauge how many people have passed on information after two or three people. Furthermore, when secondhand is used in reference to information, it is not always meant to express that the information is only one source removed from the original, but simply that it came from some source other than the original.

When describing material objects in one’s possession, the idiom is interchangeable with the word used. For example:

“I just bought a used car.”
“I just bought a secondhand car.”

Stores that specialize in selling previously owned items are often called secondhand shops.

Examples Of Use

“I don’t usually rely on secondhand information but my source has never been wrong before,” said the reporter.

“He gave a secondhand account of the meeting that the committee did not find reliable.”

“There is a great secondhand shop a few blocks from my house. You can get most of what you need for your kitchen there.”

Origin

This idiom is older than the idiom firsthand. It has been used since the 1400s. 3Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

More Idioms Starting with S

More Body Part Idioms

More Hand Idioms

More Second Idioms

Sources   [ + ]

1. Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.
2, 3. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.