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too little, too late

Inadequate as a remedy and not in time to be effective, as in The effort to divert the stream into a corn field was too little too late—the houses were already flooded. This term originated in the military, where it was applied to reinforcements that were insufficient and arrived too late to be of help. [First half of 1900s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.