Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Being the second of two persons or things mentioned: Between captain and major, the latter is the higher rank. See Usage Note at former2.
  • adj. Near or nearer to the end: the latter part of the book.
  • adj. Further advanced in time or sequence; later: a style that has been revived in latter times.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. relating to or being the second of two items
  • adj. near (or nearer) to the end
  • adj. close (or closer) to the present time

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Later; more recent; coming or happening after something else; -- opposed to former.
  • adj. Of two things, the one mentioned second.
  • adj. Recent; modern.
  • adj. Last; latest; final.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Later; more advanced or more recent; nearer to the close or to the present time: as, the latter part of the day, or of one's life; in these latter days.
  • Coming after another person or thing in consideration or relation; being the second of two or of a dual division in order of existence or of mention: opposed to former: as, I prefer the latter proposition to the former.
  • Last; latest; final.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. referring to the second of two things or persons mentioned (or the last one or ones of several)
  • n. the second of two or the second mentioned of two

Etymologies

Middle English, later, from Old English lætra; see lē- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English lætra. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • There hath he lain for ages and will lie
    Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
    Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
    —Tennyson, 'The Kraken Wakes'

    In OED sense 3. a.: "last"; used here in reference to future time. It is odd that the OED doesn't use this line as a quotation for this sense.

    July 15, 2008