Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Looking into a dictionary entry for last, I come up with:

1) Final, ultimate, coming after all others of its kind.
2) Most recent, latest, last so far.

Looking up final:

1) last; ultimate
2) Conclusive; decisive

Now I'm wondering what's the difference between final decision and last decision, were one to be strict and pedantic.

My theory:

last decision - ambiguous - may mean "final decision" or "most recent decision in a chain of decisions yet to follow
final decision - not ambiguous - means only "final decision"

Am I correct here or am I somehow mistaken?

share|improve this question
2  
Last decision is not necessary final. It is the last so far in series of decisions. So yeah I think you pretty much nail it ;-) –  speedyGonzales May 18 '12 at 10:01
    
Except that last is also used definitively in the sense of final/ ultimate: The Last Supper; The Last Testament, off the top of the mind. –  Kris May 18 '12 at 10:12
    
You are right; have you seen the film "the final decision"? –  user21032 May 18 '12 at 10:33
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It honestly depends on context. If you were to say

"That was my last decision." vs

"That was my final decision."

you are likely to mean two different things, as you describe in your question. However, consider

"This will be my last decision." vs

"This will be my final decision."

In this context the former statement implies the latter, so the meaning of the two phrases is the same, whether you mean final in the sense of "not going to change" or final in the sense of "last in a series".

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.