Use of the word “Latest”

By Maeve Maddox

Chandan writes:

I am confused between usage of word ‘LATEST’. Basically, it is being used in two opposite situations:
1. meaning late or last – “Return my book latest by Monday”
2. meaning most recent – “This is the latest book.”
How is “latest” is used in 2 opposite contexts?

English is often blamed for confusion and ambiguity that stems not from the language, but from the use of the language.

As an adjective, latest has the meaning “most recent.” Ex. This is the latest book. Here’s the latest news.

In order to use “latest” adverbially, with the meaning “at the last possible moment,” it needs to be placed in a phrase. Ex. Return my book on Monday at the latest.

3 Responses to “Use of the word “Latest””

  • Justin

    It does seem to be one of those situations where two senses of a word collide syntactically due to dropped short words. While both of the senses have a chronological basis, the first deals with absolute time and the second with relative time, i.e. sequential order.
    Mulling it over, it feels like the proper sense should be able to be determined from context, but of course poor writing (or speaking) can confuse.
    Being sure to include “at the” before “latest” seems a small price to pay to keep the sense distinct.

  • Anne Wayman – About Freelance Writing

    “Thursday latest” makes a whole lot of sense… Think I’ll adopt that, thanks.

  • Katrina

    Brits often say “…by Thursday latest” (dropping ‘at the’), though when I checked this with a British friend he told me to speak properly and use the full phrase.

Leave a comment: