A teacher might say it to a child arriving late for school, for example. Geoffrey Chaucer appears to have been the first person to have put the proverb into print, in The Yeoman's Prologue and Tale, Canterbury Tales, circa 1386: For bet than never is late. Better than never is late.

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  1. Ok, yes we are late,very late,but we are progressing, not as fast as one wish,but faster than anyone ever thought was possible. To be fair and put things in perspective,let's look at some numbers: Saudi arabia is a young nation, founded in 1932, its now only 87 year-old, it.
  2. A teacher might say it to a child arriving late for school, for example. Geoffrey Chaucer appears to have been the first person to have put the proverb into print, in The Yeoman's Prologue and Tale, Canterbury Tales, circa 1386: For bet than never is late. Better than never is late.

better late than never

The delayed occurrence or achievement of something that one desires is better than it not happening at all. This set phrase is often used to acknowledge (perhaps begrudgingly) that something has finally occurred. After two weeks, I finally got a return phone call from that company. Better late than never, I guess.I'm sorry my gift came late, but better late than never, right?
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

Better late than never.

Prov. Cliché Doing something late is better than not doing it. I'm sorry I'm late to the party. Better late than never, right?Jill: Lisa's birthday was two weeks ago. Should I send her a card now? Jane: Better late than never.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

better late than never

Being tardy is better than not at all, as in We've been waiting for you for an hour-but better late than never. This phrase, first recorded about 1200, appears in several early English proverb collections, often with the added but better never late. Today it is often used in exasperation over a delay, as in the example.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

better late than never

People say better late than never to mean that it is better for something to happen later than planned or wanted than not to happen at all. I didn't fall in love until I was 50, but better late than never!Perhaps I should have started the project years ago, I said to myself, but maybe it is better late than never. Note: This expression is often used to show that you think that something should have been done sooner.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

better late than never

it's preferable for something to happen or be done belatedly than not at all.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

ˌbetter ˌlate than ˈnever

(saying) it is better to arrive, do something, etc. late than not to arrive, do something, etc. at all: You were supposed to be here an hour ago, still better late than never, I suppose!
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

better late than never

Better
A time-honored rationalization for tardiness. It can be traced to Greek and Latin writers, including the historian Livy, and appears in several early English proverb collections. The full proverb is sometimes stated, “Better late than never, but better never late.” There are versions in numerous other languages as well.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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