The late

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In reference to a recently deceased person, the late shows respect. It’s often used to inform or remind readers that a mentioned person has died recently, and it’s sometimes a polite way of saying recently deceased, even when virtually everyone knows that the person is recently deceased. In general, it applies to anyone who has died in the last decade or so, and it almost always carries a note of reverence. So, for example, the late Osama bin Laden might strike some English speakers as too respectful.


In many cases, the late is a respectful way to inform readers that a mentioned person is dead—for example:

A high-rise condominium owned by the late film star Jackie Cooper has come on the market on the Wilshire Corridor at $1.15 million. [Los Angeles Times]

That came about largely as a result of his close friendship with the late Nick Auf der Maur, a boulevardier nonpareil. [Montreal Gazette]

Janice Farrar-Titus, wife of the late cruise industry innovator Warren Titus, served as godmother for the 188-passenger vessel. [USA Today]

In other cases, the late conveys a note of respect toward someone whose recent death is common knowledge—for example:

On Friday his mother Diana, the late Princess of Wales, would have turned 50 had she lived. [Daily Mail]

The church also used a website to receive notifications of purported miracles attributed to the late Pope John Paul II and is launching an e-learning initiative. [Sydney Morning Herald]

He associated with a number of more famous musicians, including the late George Harrison. [Guardian]

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