Meaning of “late” in the English Dictionary

"late" in British English

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lateadjective, adverb

uk /leɪt/ us /leɪt/

late adjective, adverb (NEAR THE END)

A1 (happening or being) near the end of a period of time:

It was late at night.
We talked late into the night.
Is that the time? I'd no idea it was so late.
It was late summer when it happened.
It was built in the late 19th century.
He's probably in his late twenties.
As late (= as recently) as the 1980s they were still using horses on this farm.

More examples

  • From the late 19th century, European powers began to gain control of parts of the Ottoman Empire.
  • House music first appeared in the late 1980s.
  • Nowadays many women are in their late thirties when they have their first child.
  • As it was getting late, I decided to book into a hotel.
  • Newcastle seemed to be heading for disaster until a late goal saved the day.

late adjective, adverb (AFTER EXPECTED TIME)

A1 (happening or arriving) after the planned, expected, usual, or necessary time:

This train is always late.
You'll be late for your flight if you don't hurry up.
Sorry I'm late. I was held up in the traffic.
It's too late to start complaining now.
We always have a late breakfast on Sunday mornings.
Some late news (= news of something that happened after the news programme started) has just come in - a bomb has exploded in central London.
Our ferry was two hours late because of the strike.
Kathryn's just phoned to say she's working late this evening.
See also

More examples

  • The bridegroom was late for the ceremony.
  • Is it too late to enrol at the college?
  • We've fallen into the habit of getting up late on Saturday mornings.
  • Due to a slight technical hitch the concert will be starting approximately half an hour late.
  • I missed the start of the exam because my bus was late.
noun [ U ] uk /ˈleɪt.nəs/ us /ˈleɪt.nəs/

formal the fact of being late:

It was no great surprise that you were tired given the lateness of the hour.

lateadjective [ before noun ]

uk /leɪt/ us /leɪt/

(Definition of “late” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"late" in American English

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lateadjective, adverb [ -er/-est only ]

us /leɪt/

late adjective, adverb [ -er/-est only ] (NEAR THE END)

(happening or being) near the end of a period or in the recent past:

I expect him home late this afternoon.
I’d better get going – I had no idea it was so late!
[ + to infinitive ] It’s too late to call now.
I think Jody’s in her late twenties.
He is a celebrated painter of the late 19th century.

late adjective, adverb [ -er/-est only ] (AFTER)

(happening or arriving) after the planned, expected, usual, or necessary time:

Sorry I’m late – I was caught in traffic.
You’ll be later than you already are if you don’t hurry up.
This is the latest she’s ever worked.
Summer came late this year (= The weather became warm after the usual time).
It’s too late to do anything about it now.
noun [ U ] us /ˈleɪt·nəs/

My boss doesn’t tolerate lateness.

lateadjective [ not gradable ]

us /leɪt/

late adjective [ not gradable ] (DEAD)

no longer alive, esp. having recently died:

She gave her late husband’s clothes to charity.

(Definition of “late” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)