Definition of third-hand in US English:


(also thirdhand)


  • 1(of goods) having had two previous owners.

    ‘a thirdhand dinner suit’
    • ‘The ‘new’ bike, a third-hand ten-speed racer, had been given to Ian's dad by someone he worked with at the new office.’
    • ‘My mother was a widow, I was the eldest of five and my tatty uniform had been bought second or third-hand.’
    • ‘One by one, his brilliant strategies fell to tatters like the third-hand law books in his shabby office.’
    • ‘It might be third-hand with 135,000 miles on the clock, but it's still a nice car.’
    • ‘Brad looked around his extremely messy apartment, filled with third-hand furniture, pizza boxes and scattered personal items.’
    • ‘Mine was a dreadful affair with third-hand badges badly sewn on and once I was summoned to see Miss Gillies about it.’
    • ‘The first shop in the precinct is full of third-hand hi-fis, CDs and musical instruments.’
  • 2(of information) acquired from or via several intermediate sources and consequently not authoritative or reliable.

    ‘the accounts are third-hand, told years after the event’
    • ‘We listen to third-hand hearsay about the woman in the flat below or some friend of a friend currently manning the hospital barricades’
    • ‘I was told by this police officer, who was telling me about a third-hand conversation that no one was supposed to hear about.’
    • ‘Meanwhile they continue to publish more third-hand hearsay from the British insurance industry.’
    • ‘Seeing as it's a translation of a third-hand account, I don't think I'll be using this quote in my story.’
    • ‘By third-hand account I know of a man for whom model soldiers are a passion.’
    • ‘Arcesilaus left no writings of his own, so we must rely on second and third-hand reports in order to reconstruct his views.’
    • ‘So far India has received information about their demands only through second- and third-hand sources.’
    • ‘These people base their reality on a set of stories, their hard opinions on fables and third-hand tales, rather than embracing the morality of these stories.’
    • ‘That evidence was third-hand by the time we heard it and could not effectively be challenged, but it merits investigation.’
    • ‘That's typical of the news we get from the media: a third-hand subjective slant on an interpretation of a glimpse of a surface flash as seen by a career persona.’
    • ‘The story is third-hand, so the details are a bit vague to me, but basically the CO told some of the soldiers to take the prisoners to the POW camp, and be back in fifteen minutes.’
    • ‘You produce, as fact, third-hand accounts from thirty years ago.’
    • ‘I'd met few who'd been to the country, and from second and third-hand reports I'd heard, I imagined a strange land of bicycle-avalanches and where vegetarians ate grass.’
    • ‘There is more fascination in this documentary than in any number of supposedly authoritative historical textbooks written by those only with second- or third-hand experience.’
    • ‘He had heard various second and third-hand reports.’
    • ‘Assuming this report is true, it's amazing how our top officials put so much trust in a third-hand account by someone they didn't even know.’
    • ‘Any experienced historian such as Walsh should know that the third-hand writings of second-hand information taken half a century after an event concluded are dubious at best.’
    • ‘It is not an easy task; we often hear second or third-hand information.’
    • ‘As I say, this report is at least third-hand so it may not be entirely accurate, but it sounds like good news for science-fiction fans.’
    • ‘The operation was still underway and he was only able to give her a third-hand account of events that were still unfolding.’


  • From or via several intermediate sources.

    ‘I heard about the case thirdhand’
    • ‘Two days were set aside to hear from journalists who had not been present on the day but had reported the story third-hand.’
    • ‘Most got their ‘evidence’ about Africans and non-Europeans second and third-hand from the actual conquerors and enslavers.’
    • ‘Issac is certainly talking, although what he is actually saying is uncertain as it is being passed on third-hand and via translation.’
    • ‘The litigants don't have to worry if their information comes third-hand.’
    • ‘I keep hearing the medical information third-hand, through a bunch of non-medical people, so this is probably altogether wrong.’
    • ‘This comes to me third-hand, and its veracity is possibly a bit suspect.’