9

Latest in English means most recent. Then, how do we say something is 'most late'?

For example, all the candidates for a job receive their interview schedules. I don't exactly know the entire schedule, but I've seen three dates: November 3, November 7, and November 11. My friend asks me when is the last interview. I want to tell him that from what I've seen the 'most late' one is on November 11th. How would I phrase this sentence?

  • 7
    What about "last: - coming after all others in time or order; final"? – RubioRic Oct 9 at 7:09
  • 5
    Your answer is right there in your question — "My friend asks me when is the last interview." – 200_success Oct 9 at 19:30
  • What's wrong with "he arrived latest at the meeting"? Ho was both the last to arrive and the most recent arrival. It covers both – Mawg Oct 10 at 6:56
  • @RubioRic: Last can also mean "most recent" without necessarily meaning '"final". Definition 2.1 Example: "Volbeat's last album is amazing!" This means it's still a form of ambiguity as to whether it is final or not. – Flater Oct 10 at 7:39
  • 1
    How about "tardiest"? "Tardy" is a synonym for "late" in the meaning you want. – Chris Melville Oct 10 at 8:26
18

You have a problem with your question.

You're using dates of November. At the time of this question, it's October and November is in the future. When you say that latest means most recent, that's only if you're talking about the past. If you're talking about the future, it's the opposite.

However, for the purpose of the final answer, the same general principles apply.


Regardless of your point of reference, latest is on one end of the scale and earliest is on the other.


In other words:

  • Dates in the past: November 3 was the earliest date and it was the furthest away from the present; November 11 was the latest date and it was the closest to to the present.

  • Dates in the future: November 3 will be the earliest date and it will be the closest to the present; November 11 will be the latest date and it will be the furthest away from the present.

  • 4
    A potential problem with latest, though, is some ambiguity. If I ask, "Which interview is latest?" some might assume I'm asking about latest in the afternoon, not latest on the calendar. – J.R. Oct 9 at 20:23
  • @J.R. Yes, it's a measure of time scale. Rather than days out of a month, you'd instead be talking about hours out of a day. (Or possibly both, if you mean the one appointment out of those in the next month that takes place at the latest time of the day.) But I don't see how any specific word could escape that kind of ambiguity. No matter what you pick, you'd still have to qualify the context with additional detail. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Oct 9 at 20:52
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    Latest also has multiple meanings. It may also (by using it's alternate definition) mean the "most recent" meeting. Context is important, and in this case, using latest introduces some unneeded ambiguity that last does not introduce. For example, if the middle meeting just happened, it might be the "latest" meeting, even though another meeting will occur later. – Edwin Buck Oct 10 at 4:31
  • @EdwinBuck Last also means most recent. When is your last appointment of the day? versus When was your last appointment? It also has the unrelated meaning of endure that latest doesn't have. How long can these appointments last? And it can mean final, which latest can't. That's the last appointment I'll ever make. I'd definitely say that last is at least as ambiguous, if not more so. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Oct 10 at 13:03
  • @EdwinBuck last can have that same "most recent" meaning though, e.g. "I enjoyed the last meeting we were at." As the answer says, the tense is important, because you could have something like "I can't wait for the last meeting to be over and done with" which would then mean the final meeting to happen. – crazyloonybin Oct 10 at 13:03
20

last

It really does the trick, both for what you want and the alternative, without the confusion of "latest", and the spelling is conveniently similar. Consider the adverb definition from Merriam-Webster:

last adverb (MW)

1: after all others : at the end

// came last and left first

2: most lately

// saw him last in Rome

3: in conclusion

// last, let's consider the social aspect

For your example:

...I want to tell him that from what I've seen the last one is on November 11.

4

Firstly "latest" does not only mean "most recent". The word "latest" can be used in discussing events at any time, including the future, and is part of canned phrases such as "at the latest". We can say that "the latest you should pay that bill is the 31st of this month", but not "the most recent you should pay that bill is the 31st of this month". The word "recent" takes a relative point of view from some time understood to be current; the most recent event is the latest one, excluding ones that have not yet happened.

"Most late" does in fact mean "latest". Both express the superlative of "late". Though awkward, it is possible to say "the most late you should pay that bill is the 31st of this month". It's only awkward because "most late" is a verbose phrase that isn't used much, since the direct superlative "latest" is available. The "most " construction is required for adjectives that don't form superlatives, or do so awkwardly.

An example of a class of adjectives that don't form superlatives are those which are verb participles, or have that form:

Out of all the cynics I know, Bob is the {most jaded | *jadest | *jadedest}.

We have no choice but to use "most jaded".

If several people have arrived late, we can say "out of the latecomers, Bob was the most late" or "out of the latecomers, Bob was the latest".

Now if you say "the November 11 interview is the latest one I saw in the schedule", there is an ambiguity there. Does "latest" refer to the date of the interview? Or does "latest" refer to your discovery: is it the most recent one you learned about so far? The ambiguity is resolved by the context given by the prior discussion and by other knowledge of the world, such as that a person usually has the entire schedule before their eyes; people usually don't report about the incremental discovery of the elements of a schedule. However, we can avoid the ambiguity anyway, like this: "the November 11 interview is the latest dated one I saw in the schedule".

  • I like everything in this answer except latest-dated, which seems a bit awkward. An alternative might be: "The November 11 interview is the farthest one out." – J.R. Oct 9 at 20:36
  • @J.R. Could be the hyphen. Looking around the web, I see plenty of uses of "latest dated" in the same sense, but it seems nobody writes it with a hyphen. I will fix that. – Kaz Oct 9 at 20:57
  • @J.R. Of course "farthest out" is fine, but I was trying to keep the word "latest", to show that "latest" can be retained, while the meaning is clarified. – Kaz Oct 9 at 21:00
  • When I look up "latest dated" on Google, most of the hits seem backward-looking, not forward-looking (e.g., Thirteen silver coins, the latest dated 1601, or The Latest Dated Cuneiform Tablet in the British Museum). As for sticking with the word latest, like I said, I agreed with most of your answer, but sometimes it's better to offer a learner a more natural-sounding alternative than a correct-but-awkward force-fit. – J.R. Oct 9 at 21:07
  • @J.R. Hmm; because events in the past are "dated", not future events? When we write a cheque (perhaps "check" where you are) with a future date, it is "postdated"; that would be silly to use in any manner in this situation, though. I somehow don't have a problem with a future November 11 event being "dated" to that day. While on the topic of alternative words, futuremost is a nice one. – Kaz Oct 9 at 21:28

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