I'm not a native speaker of English. I was on YouTube and there was a title written "... My Dead Brother" I understood that it has same meaning between 'My Dead Brother' and 'My Late Brother'. But which one is used the most by the native English? Do those sentences have the same meaning?

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    You cannot say "a native english". You mean a native speaker of English. – tchrist Apr 2 '17 at 15:49
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    Death is taboo in most cultures, and by association so are most signs and symbols which correspond to death, like the word death. This is as true in English as it is in Chinese, whose elevators go from floor 2 to floor 3 to floor 3A to floor 5, because the word for 4 (shin) is homophonous with the word for death. In fact, euphemisms like late are consciously introduced specifically to avoid saying words like death. So which do you think is more common? – Dan Bron Apr 2 '17 at 15:55
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    @DanBron Small niggle: ‘four’ is 四 (in Mandarin—different in other Chinese lects, but no final n in any of them), which is not quite homophonous with 死 sǐ ‘death’, but close enough to be taboo. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 2 '17 at 16:34
  • @More niggles There is no Floor 3A. Some elevators on Hong Kong or Taiwan simply skip the 4th floor or use it for maintenance equipment but even that is uncommon. – lly Apr 2 '17 at 18:31
  • @lly I worked in a Chinese-owned, -built, and -operated building. My office was on floor 3A :) – Dan Bron Apr 2 '17 at 20:25

Google has scanned an enormous number of books as part of its Google Books effort and has a Google Ngram Viewer service that utilizes that scanning effort to provide a means for determining the prevalence of words or phrases in all of the books Google has scanned with the limitation that results are only available up until the year 2008. Using that service, one can see that the phrase "my late brother" has been far more common, at least in books, than "my dead brother," though in recent years the difference in frequency is far less than in the 19th century.

Graph of frequency of "my dead brother" compared to "my late brother"

Though they have the same meaning, I would say that the phrase "late" is used more frequently than "dead" in other written media, including obituaries, to describe deceased relatives as well as in spoken conversations and I would attribute that discrepancy to the reason cited by Dan Bron in his comment and as noted in Euphemisms for Dead, Death or Dying:

French writer and philosopher Voltaire said, "One great use of words is to hide our thoughts." This is a concise explanation of why people use euphemisms -- the substitution of an inoffensive word or phrase for something generally considered offensive or insensitively explicit. Because the reality of death and dying makes us feel uncomfortable, we often resort to various euphemisms to indirectly reference the inevitable end of the human condition.

  • Thanks for the definitive answer and, as well, for taking the time to gloss the ngram project and clarify its limitations. (When are they going to update it? It's used all over the internet and it's getting on a decade out of date now...) – lly Apr 2 '17 at 18:34
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    Using "the late" also puts more emphasis on what's being discussed rather than the fact of death, e.g., "My late brother and I co-authored that book." – Xanne Apr 2 '17 at 19:23

ex. "My late brother John was a highly skilled carpenter, working in the industry for over 25 years."

"My late brother" is the proper way to indicate that your brother has passed away

  • Also my brother, now deceased, used to... or my brother, before he died (or passed), would... – Davo Oct 18 '17 at 13:51

The meaning is the same, but the connotation is different. "Late" is considered more elegant and less harsh. It is basically a euphemism, although unlike "passed on" or "no longer with us," it has essentially the exact same meaning as the word it replaces.

It is worth noting, however, that late is used almost exclusively for people, whereas any kind of once-living creature can be dead. So "late" explicitly preserves the essential personhood of the referent in a way that "dead" does not.

Late has a slightly old-fashioned sound to it, reflecting its decreasing usage in our more blunt, less humanist and less elegant times. According to Google, the crossover point in popularity was actually more than a century ago, around 1885.


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