Definition of latter
2 : of, relating to, or being the second of two groups or things or the last of several groups or things referred to of ham and beef the latter meat is cheaper today of ham and beef the latter is cheaper today
Examples of latter in a Sentence
… a fundamental trade-off between capitalist prosperity and economic security. As a nation we have chosen to have less of the former in order to have more of the latter. —David A. Stockman, Newsweek, 28 Apr. 1986
… though her bibliography includes Hecht, Snyder, and Daiches, she omits the latter's first name … —DeLancey Ferguson, Modern Language Notes, February 1957
the latter stages of the process
We'll go in the latter half of the year.
In his latter years he became blind.
Recent Examples of latter from the Web
The first two reactions are probably the analyses of amateur movie lovers, and the latter are more likely the declarations of professional critics, but still: All four are equally valid reactions to a movie-going experience.
The latter was because her parents weren’t ready to accept her blossoming identity as a bisexual.
At their annual conference in New Orleans this month, polling experts were inching toward the latter …
He was arrested for those charges on May 23 and received a $75,000 bond for the first-degree robbery charge and a $2,500 bond for the latter charge.
The latter came after Sandburg setter Connor Kelly put the Eagles on top with a dump and a block on consecutive plays.
The LA class, consisting of 62 boats, represented the height of American technological and manufacturing skill in the latter years of the Cold War.
The latter marks a departure the 16:9 aspect that's commonly used in today's smartphones, and points at the future of mobile displays.
Most experts would prefer the latter scenario because the growth in overall trade is indicative of robust economic activity.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'latter'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Can latter be used of more than two?
There is some controversy afoot regarding the use of latter, particularly regarding its use to refer to items in a series. Many commentators insist that latter can only be used of a series that consists of two:
We have a chicken entree and a vegetarian entree: do you prefer the former or the latter?
When presented with a series of three or more, they say, anyone wishing to highlight the last item in the series should use last and not latter:
We had soup, fish, and dessert, and the last was uninspiring.
But our evidence shows that latter is used to refer to the last in a series regardless of number:
After Ethel's action at Oxford, the ultimate sacrifice that symbolizes her self-discipline, the focus moves away to other members of her family for the latter third of the novel...
— Melissa Schaub, Studies in the Novel, Spring 2007
...I am getting crosser and snappier and sadder every minute straining and struggling to type and to read and to draw (the latter is the easiest).
— James Thurber, letter, 9 June 1939
...bee not over-power'd with policie, nor with enforcement of arguments, nor with the approach of Souldiers, and Troopers; the two first may seeme to perswade you, the latter may terrifie you into an everlasting undoing...
— A.L., To all the honest, wise, and grave-citizens of London, but more especially to all those that challenge an interest in the Common-Hall, 1648
This use is common enough that most modern dictionaries make mention of it in their definitions for latter—and indeed they should, since our evidence for this particular use is several hundred years old. Despite this evidence, however, there are still those who object to its use; if you are concerned about such things, use last to refer to the last item in a series of three or more.
Origin and Etymology of latter
Middle English, from Old English lætra, comparative of læt late
First Known Use: before 12th century
LATTER Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of latter for English Language Learners
: coming or happening near the end of a process, activity, series, life, etc.
LATTER Defined for Kids
Definition of latter for Students
1 : coming or occurring near the end We are in the latter stages of the work.
2 : relating to or being the last thing or person mentioned Of cake or pie, I'll choose the latter.
Seen and Heard
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