My question concerns the use of the word late when referring to someone who has died.

Numerous fictional characters die and return to life again. Would it be correct to refer to them as the late XXXX, given that they don't stay dead? What word could be used for them at the time they are 'not alive'?

  • You can use >! at the beginning of a line to create a hidden "spoiler" section of text that has to be moused over to be read. Dec 11, 2014 at 17:24
  • I would consider reformatting the question to be more generic: it also applies to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kenny from South Park, and too many more to mention. Dec 11, 2014 at 17:29
  • 3
    It may sound odd, but I think that the most accurate adjective to use in describing the period during a person who later came back to life was dead would be "then-dead." The reason it sounds odd is that we don't have much experience in real life with the phenomenon of people dying and later coming back to life.
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 7, 2015 at 3:57
  • Is there anything wrong with using both - depending on the context? When they're alive (after death and resurrection) use resurrected (or reanimated) and when they're dead use late.
    – immutabl
    Apr 5, 2015 at 0:50

3 Answers 3


You could always refer to them as the temporarily deceased, or the previously deceased. Other possibilities are the then-dead or once-dead XXXX.

If someone is interacting with them whilst they are dead, you could always talk about the body of XXXX. This implies that they are lifeless at the time of the interaction, one wouldn't generally talk about interacting with the body of someone who is alive/conscious.

Post-resurrection you could refer to them as the undead/undying XXXX.


Based on the definitions I can find, it seems only to apply to dead people. As such, I don't know that it would be appropriate to refer to a now-living XXXX (or whatever character) as the late XXXX.

However, contemporaneous with the time he's dead, it would be appropriate, because we don't know that he's going to come back.

It might be used after the fact to call attention to that time in a light-hearted manner. For example, I could address Harry Potter with, "When you were the late Harry Potter, Hermione was at least glad you hadn't been expelled."

  • extemporaneous? Shouldn't that be contemporaneous?
    – Barmar
    Dec 12, 2014 at 2:10
  • 1
    @Barmar Details...details...
    – Nick2253
    Dec 12, 2014 at 6:30

You could use "formerly late", which might be a little flippant, but if we're talking about fictional undead, it probably would not be offensive.

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