lat·​ter ˈla-tər How to pronounce latter (audio)
: belonging to a subsequent time or period : more recent
the latter stages of growth
: of or relating to the end
in their latter days
: recent, present
affected by latter calamities
: 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

Did you know?

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.

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 on the Web This latter point is true even when the product is unavailable at retail, as little exclusivity adheres to a product over which everyone and their cousin are going ga-ga. Allen Farmelo, Robb Report, 3 May 2024 That latter point reflects the Stadium Freeway's underused condition. Tom Daykin, Journal Sentinel, 11 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for latter 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'latter.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Old English lætra, comparative of læt late

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of latter was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near latter

Cite this Entry

“Latter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


lat·​ter ˈlat-ər How to pronounce latter (audio)
: more recent : later
: of or relating to the end : final
: of, relating to, or being the second of two things referred to

More from Merriam-Webster on latter

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