The late Mister Smith

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Magazine

Senior Member
Español-España.
I was wondering what native speakers think about this.

The late Mister Smith refers to a deceased person.

Now, my question is: Would you think this person has recently died or has he been dead for years?

In this American English based dictionary this is listed:

dictionary.com

  1. recently deceased:the late Mr. Phipps.
In WR it simply states the person is dead...no time sequence implied.

Maybe a cultural difference?

Thanks for your input :)
 
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I certainly would not refer to the "late" Ramses II.:)

    "Recently" has no precise time reference, of course, but I would not use it for someone long dead (which also has no precise definition).
     

    AnythingGoes

    Senior Member
    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    I find the late natural to refer to someone who has died recently or who died recently with respect to an established time frame. The latter case could be long ago: After the state funeral, the opposition wasted no time trying to overturn the late President Lincoln's policies.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would probably only use "late" to avoid any ambiguity or misunderstanding. It might be important to let the person you are speaking to know that Mr Smith is dead, or you might want to make it clear you are not referring to a currently living Mr Smith:
    The partnership of Smith and Jones was formed in the nineteenth century and has been though a number of different partners since then, but successive partners have decided to keep the original name of the business. Curiously, none since the original founder has been called Smith, but he was a remarkable man and many anecdotes are spoken about him to this day. He has always been referred to as Mr Smith. Just recently, a new partner has been appointed, also called Smith. Anecdotes about the business's founder are now told about "the late Mr Smith".​
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    In WR it simply states the person is dead...no time sequence implied.

    Maybe a cultural difference?
    :confused::confused:

    WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2018

    5. recently deceased:[before a noun]
    the late John and Jane Doe.
    WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2018
    6. recently deceased:
    the late Mr. Phipps.
    Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::
    6. (prenominal) having died, esp recently: my late grandfather
    Source: Late - WordReference.com Dictionary of English
     

    Magazine

    Senior Member
    Español-España.
    Thanks loop, I was looking at this page, English to Spanish, it says nothing about a "recent death".

    I was actually of the opinion that the late Mister Smith meant he had recently died, not like 20 years ago.

    This all comes from a discussion on the English-Spanish forum where this question popped up.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It's one of those vague things that don't have precise definitions.

    If someone knew nothing about my grandfather, I might use the word "late" even if he died 20 years earlier.

    As my late grandfather used to say, all's well that ends well.

    Now the person knows my grandfather was fond of wise old sayings and that he's no longer living. "Used to say" strongly implies he's dead but "late" makes it crystal clear. I am young enough that it's conceivable my grandfather could still be alive.

    If I was talking about my great-great-grandfather I wouldn't use that word because it would be absurd in that context. So "recently" is flexible.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    There might be a contrast to or with a 'Mr Smith' his son, who's very much alive.

    (By the way, it is strange to see 'Mister' written out in full.)

    Sometimes it's used to indicate that a Mrs Smith is a widow, 'her late husband', or that a relative is dead. "Mrs Smith's late son, Ron, spent most of his life in prison".
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The adjective "late" is usually used to refer to
    (i) someone who could reasonably be assumed to be alive - "She told me it had been her late husband's car."
    (ii) to distinguish a living person from a dead one where they share a name or title "The late Duke was interested in Roman pottery when he was younger."

    "Late" is rarely used to refer to any person alive more than, say, 100 years ago as it can be assumed that they are dead (except in an historical context as in 1 and 2 above.) See also
    I certainly would not refer to the "late" Ramses II.:)
    (Some crossposting here...)
     

    Ferrol

    Senior Member
    Spanish.España
    The adjective "late" is usually used to refer to
    (i) someone who could reasonably be assumed to be alive - "She told me it had been her late husband's car."
    (ii) to distinguish a living person from a dead one where they share a name or title "The late Duke was interested in Roman pottery when he was younger."

    "Late" is rarely used to refer to any person alive more than, say, 100 years ago as it can be assumed that they are dead (except in an historical context as in 1 and 2 above.) See also


    (Some crossposting here...)
    The point at issue on the Englis-Spanish Forum was if the use of "late" for deceased people should be limited for recently dead people only.I think your post supports that the opposite is true, as long as it is not used for someone that , presumably, has been dead for ages.One hundred years is indeed a long time!
     
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