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latter

[ lat-er ]
/ ˈlæt ər /
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adjective
being the second mentioned of two (distinguished from former): I prefer the latter offer to the former one.
more advanced in time; later: in these latter days of human progress.
near or comparatively near to the end: the latter part of the century.
Obsolete. last1; final.
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Origin of latter

First recorded before 1000; Middle English latt(e)re, Old English lætra, comparative of læt late

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH latter

1. later, latter 2. ladder, latter
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

FORMER VS. LATTER

What’s the difference between former and latter?

Using the terms former and latter is a somewhat formal way to differentiate between items mentioned in a set or list without actually naming them. Former is used to indicate the first item mentioned, while latter is used to indicate the second item.

Both words can be used as an adjective or a noun. In either case, they are both usually preceded by the.

Here’s an example of an adjective use: When offered a choice between shorter hours and higher pay, most survey respondents chose the former option. 

In this example, the former option refers to shorter hours, because that’s the item that was mentioned first.

Here’s an example of a noun use: I enjoy both vanilla and chocolate ice cream, but I prefer the latter. 

In this example, the latter refers to chocolate ice cream, because that’s the one that was mentioned second.

Remember, using former and latter can sound a bit formal (and might even be confusing to people who aren’t familiar with the terms). A less formal (and potentially clearer) way to rephrase the former of the two examples would be to say When offered a choice between shorter hours and higher pay, most survey respondents chose shorter hours. 

To remember the difference, remember that latter sounds like (and is related to) the word later—so the latter item is the one that was mentioned later.

Former and latter are sometimes both used in the same sequence.

Here’s an example of former and latter used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: The report presented two alternative plans: the former would be easier to implement; the latter would be less expensive.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between former and latter.

Quiz yourself on former vs. latter!

Should former or latter be used in the following sentence?

The study found that most participants chose the _____ option simply because it was the last thing they heard.

How to use latter in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for latter

latter
/ (ˈlætə) /

adjective (prenominal)
  1. denoting the second or second mentioned of two: distinguished from former
  2. (as noun; functioning as sing or plural)the latter is not important
near or nearer the endthe latter part of a film
more advanced in time or sequence; later

usage for latter

The latter should only be used to refer to the second of two items: many people choose to go by hovercraft rather than use the ferry, but I prefer the latter. The last of three or more items can be referred to as the last-named
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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