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The word second-guess is a hyphenated compound word, which is a word that is derived from two separate words joined together with a hyphen. We will examine the definition of second-guess, where this word came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To second-guess is to criticize someone’s judgement, to question a decision someone has made. One may second-guess someone else, or one may second-guess oneself. Second-guess is a transitive verb which is a verb that takes an object, related words are second-guesses, second-guessed, second-guessing. The word second-guess first appeared in the United States in the 1940s, and is related to the game of baseball. During the 1930s, the umpire officiating a baseball game was known as a guesser, and people who questioned the umpire’s decisions were known as secondguessers. Eventually, the verb second-guess was coined as a back-formation from the word secondguesser. A back-formation is a word that is constructed from a word that already exists, usually by dropping a suffix.


The U.S. Supreme Court will not second-guess the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent decision forcing the GOP-controlled legislature of that state to fix gerrymandered congressional districts before this fall’s elections. (New York Magazine)

This is the very foundation of our democracy and only in the most extreme cases, based on the most reliable facts, should anyone ever second-guess the will of the voters.” (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“I tend to second guess myself the more time I have to think, but if I go too fast I’ll say the wrong thing,” Zanett said. (The Daily Inter Lake)

“As a police officer, you are routinely put in difficult situations that are second-guessed by people who often have zero experience or expertise in the area they are judging you on, and it can often feel like a ‘can’t win’ scenario.” (The Mercury News)

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