the next best thing

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the next best thing

Something that is as good a substitute as possible for that which is really desired or best suited. My walking shoes have a hole in them, so I've been using the next best thing—my hiking boots. I'm really craving some chocolate cake, but I guess this candy bar is the next best thing.
See also: next, thing

the next best ˈthing

the best alternative for a thing that you cannot have: I couldn’t find any more of that Italian ice cream but this is the next best thing in my opinion.
See also: next, thing
References in classic literature ?
If the latter, the refusal was to be expressed so delicately that it would be next best thing to acceptance, and he would go away, after kissing her hand, assuring her of his unalterable, life-long devotion.
"Of course, if one doesn't go to a public school those sort of schools are the next best thing, aren't they?"
You never exactly knew whether there would be a real meal or just a make-believe, it all depended upon Peter's whim: he could eat, really eat, if it was part of a game, but he could not stodge [cram down the food] just to feel stodgy [stuffed with food], which is what most children like better than anything else; the next best thing being to talk about it.
"Next best thing to tell the truth," muttered Captain Smollett.
(if the truth must be owned), not exactly into a sleep, but into the next best thing to it.
Miss Ophelia, therefore, did the next best thing she could for Tom,--she wrote a letter to Mrs.
"All baound to make mistakes, an' I tell you two boys here thet after you've made a mistake - ye don't make fewer'n a hundred a day - the next best thing's to own up to it like men."
It is considered the next best thing to tying threads around his finger by way of reminders.
On a morning like this I can spend hours merely feasting my eyes upon this prospect, and I can find, if not happiness, the next best thing. The world is full of beautiful places, but the strange part of it is that beauty has countless phases, and each phase differs in some subtle and unexplainable manner from all others.
It would be a discreet and sober course to pursue; the next best thing to having written before leaving home.
I never pretended to understand Private Ortheris; and so I did the next best thing I left him alone.
"An English hero of the road would be the next best thing to an Italian bandit; and that could only be surpassed by a Levantine pirate."
'The next best thing for me is not to recognise it; and,' he added coolly, 'I don't.
Discovering that I could find no really telling stupidity, I turned to the next best thing; a platitude.
It was not George, however, but it was the next best thing: it was news of him.