Modern, recent, late, though not close synonyms, are subject to confusion when they are used to date things or events which have taken place, come into existence, or developed in times close to the present.
Modern (see also NEW )is the term of widest range of meaning; it may date anything that is not medieval or ancient or anything that bears the marks of a period nearer in time than another or less clearly to anything that is new, fresh, or up-to-date. In all these uses a change or contrast in character or quality is to some extent implied by the term modern.
Recent is usually without such implication and may simply indicate a date that approximates that of the immediate past, though the time to which this term, too, refers depends upon the thing that is qualified; thus, “recent geological ages” designates those ages immediately preceding the present geological age, although, since each age may represent millions of years, recent is obviously used relatively; “Shakespeare is a more recent author than Chaucer” implies only a comparative status, for Shakespeare was born in the sixteenth century and Chaucer in the fourteenth; “we have all the recent books” implies an absolute relation to a time that may be described as the immediate past.
Late (see also TARDY DEAD ) implies a series or succession of which the person or thing so described is the most recent in time. Sometimes the word carries an implication that is less definite and equivalent to “not long ago holding the position of or serving as”.