Secondly vs. secondarily?

Subject: Secondly vs. secondarily?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2002 14:55:25 -0400

Patricia Blount wonders: <<... if some kind soul will help me clarify the
distinction between the two words "secondly" and "secondarily". I have
looked up both definitions in three different dictionaries and I know both
are adverbs. "Secondly" is the adverb form of "second" and "secondarily" is
the adverb form of "secondary".>>

That's the correct distinction between the two, and as a result, they are
not synonyms except in one specific case. When used at the beginning of a
sentence or elsewhere to modify the entire sentence, both serve as sentence
adverbs, and modify the entire sentence. With "secondly", the sentence comes
second in a sequence. With "secondarily", the previous sentence introduced
the most important (primary) point, and the current sentence is simply
providing useful but less-important (secondary) information.

The two meanings overlap when the sequence is "in order of importance, here
are the things I want to point out". In that case, secondly is correct (the
sentence is number 2 in the sequence) and so is secondarily (because number
2 is less important than number 1). Which one to use depends on which of
these properties you wish to emphasize.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"User's advocate" online monthly at
"When ideas fail, words come in very handy."--Goethe

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