Better Late Than Never

Meaning of Idiom ‘Better Late Than Never’

Better late then never means that it is better to do something late than to not do it at all; it is better for somethnig to happen later than we expected or wanted than for it not to occur at all; it is better to arrive late than to not come at all; it is better to keep a promise at a later time than expected than to not keep one’s promise, etc.

Usage Notes

This long used proverbial idiom is usually used today to express exasparation over a delay. In other words, while the expression says it is ‘better’ to do somethnig late, the intention is actually to show that you think something should have been done sooner. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013., 2Definition of better late than never in COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary. HarperCollins Publishers

Examples Of Use

“You promised you would help me yesterday! Well, better late than never.”

“I forgot to send mom a Mother’s day card last week. I sent one today though. Better late than never, I suppose.”

“So, sorry I’m late. Better late than never, right?”

“You’re late! Oh, well better late than never. Let’s get started.”

“Well Rick finally paid me back that money. Better late than never.”


This idiom was first recorded in 1200 and was used by Greek and Latin writers, including Livy. It appears in several early English books on proverbs. There are also versions in many other languages. 3Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,4Ammer, Christine. The Dictionary of Cliches: a Word Lover’s Guide to 4,000 Overused Phrases and Almost-Pleasing Platitudes. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

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