‘On Second Thought’: Definition, Meaning and Examples

By Shanea Patterson, updated on April 12, 2023

Have you heard someone say, ‘on second thought’ and wondered what they meant by it? We’ll clear that up in this article, giving you the definition and origin, as well as providing examples of how to use the phrase in a sentence correctly.

In short:

  • ‘On second thought’ means that someone has had a change of opinion.

Essentially, it means that you’ve changed your mind after thinking about something again.

What Does ‘On Second Thought’ Mean?

‘On second thought’ is a common American phrase that people use to let someone know that they’ve changed their mind after thinking more about something. You’ll likely hear it immediately after the person changes their mind.

  • It’s typically used when someone is simply thinking about their plans out loud, and they’re trying to figure out what choice to make.

For example, you might hear someone say something like:

'I was going to go to the mall today to get a new dress, but on second thought, it might be cheaper to order it online.'

  • The phrase is also commonly used when someone changes their mind suddenly because of something that happened.

For example, if you had plans to go to the beach, but it looks like it’s going to rain, you might say:

'We were supposed to go to the beach today, but on second thought, maybe we should stay in. It looks like we’re going to get a thunderstorm.'

In the movie, Dumb and Dumber, Harry is responsible for delivering dogs to a dog show, but he gives them snacks before the delivery, which allows them to make a mess of themselves in the van. When he delivers them, he assures her that they’re in great condition and ready to appear in the show.

But once the client sees the condition the dogs are in (completely unkempt), his response is:

'You know, on second thought, you might just want to run a comb through ‘em.'

It’s clear that they’re going to need a lot more primping and polishing than Harry initially thought.

Where Does ‘On Second Thought’ Come From? 

It isn’t entirely clear where the phrase ‘on second thought’ comes from.

However, there is a song called On Second Thought that was written and recorded by American country music artist Eddie Rabbit.

  • It was released in 1989 as the first single from the album Jersey Boy.

Examples of ‘On Second Thought’ in Sentences

How would you use ‘on second thought’ in a sentence?

Let’s see some examples:

  • I was going to go to my boyfriend’s house tonight, but on second thought, I think I’d rather stay home and watch a movie alone. I’m just not in the mood for company.
  • I’m so grateful for winning this trip to Mexico, but there are a lot of political uprisings there. On second thought, I don’t think I’m going to go right now, maybe after everything blows over.
  • I was going to play devil’s advocate, but on second thought, that might make everyone uncomfortable. So I think I’ll just keep my thoughts to myself.
  • I want to join the yoga group at my local gym. There are a bunch of women in the class, though. I’d be the only man, and I don’t want to seem like a fox in the hen house. On second thought, I think I’ll keep doing yoga at home.
  • I was going to tell my neighbor to have a good day. But on second thought, he looked like he wasn’t in the mood.
  • My sister and I were supposed to go to Thailand this summer, but on second thought, I probably shouldn’t go so close to my trip to Paris. I don’t want to end up broke.
  • I want to call my friend, Trish, but she already told me I’m on thin ice with her. So, on second thought, I’ll give her more time to cool off before I try to reach out.
  • I planned on wearing a jacket outside. But on second thought, it’s hot as hell outside, so I’ll leave it at home.

Other Ways to Say ‘On Second Thought’

What other ways could you say, ‘on second thought’?

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Rather
  • Alternatively
  • As a substitute
  • In lieu of
  • In place of
  • In preference
  • After thought
  • Doubt
  • Reconsideration
  • Hesitation
  • Arrère-pensée
  • Delay
  • Pause
  • On the other hand
  • On the flip side
  • Actually
  • Conversely
  • By way of alternative
  • Preferably
  • Instead
  • That said
  • In contrast
  • Change your mind
  • Think more about
  • Thought long and hard about
  • Then again
  • On the other side of the coin
  • As a choice

Concluding Thoughts on ‘On Second Thought’

To recap, we learned the following:

  • ‘On second thought’ means that someone has had a change of opinion.

Remember, it means that you’ve changed your mind after thinking about something again.

If you ever get stuck on anything or forget the meaning, you can always come back here to review what you learned. We’ve got a ton of other content on other idioms you might see as you’re learning the English language. Feel free to check it out anytime.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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