General English


  • adjective after the time stated or agreed
  • adjective at the end of a period of time


  • adverb (happening or played) characterised by movement at an advanced stage of the ball’s flight
    Citation ‘He kept the ball well up, swinging it late from outside the off-stump to middle-and-off’ (James 1963)
    Citation ‘There is no smothering a good late outswinger which starts about middle stump; and, if it finds the edge … must almost certainly go to slip or wicketkeeper as a catch’ (Arlott 1983)
    Citation ‘Hoggard, his late swing the perfect foil for Flintoff, contributed a sublime spell of four for four from 19 balls to finish things off’ (Hugh Chevallier, Wisden 2006)
  • adverb (of a batting stroke played) when the ball is already close to the line of the stumps
    Citation ‘There are very few players, indeed, who can cut late with anything like effect or severity’ (Ranjitsinhji 1897)
    Citation ‘This moment differs from player to player, and one who has plenty of time to play his shots and who can actually play them late … is the better player’ (Purandare 2005)

Origin & History of “late”

English and Dutch (with laat) are the only modern European languages to use this word to express the idea of ‘behind time’. It comes from an Indo-European base *lad- ‘slow, weary’, which also produced Latin lassus ‘tired’ (source of English alas (13th c.) and lassitude (16th c.)). In prehistoric Germanic this gave *lataz ‘slow, sluggish’. Its English descendant late originally meant ‘slow’ (and the related German lass still means ‘lazy’), but although this survived dialectally into the 19th century, in the mainstream language ‘delayed’ had virtually replaced it by the 15th century. From the same ultimate Indo-European source come English lease, let, and liege.