In modern use the more common word is later, which is from mid-15c. and is perhaps a new formation or a variant of this word. Latter survives mostly in the phrase the latter, which, with the former is used to avoid repetition (but sometimes incorrectly, when more than two are involved).
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to let go, slacken."
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek ledein "to be weary;" Latin lenis "mild, gentle, calm," lassus "faint, weary;" Lithuanian lėnas "quiet, tranquil, tame, slow," leisti "to let, to let loose;" Old Church Slavonic lena "lazy," Old English læt "sluggish, slow," lætan "to leave behind."
Old English læt "occurring after the customary or expected time," originally "slow, sluggish, slack, lax, negligent," from Proto-Germanic *lata- (source also of Old Norse latr "sluggish, lazy," Middle Dutch, Old Saxon lat, Dutch laat, German laß "idle, weary," Gothic lats "weary, sluggish, lazy," latjan "to hinder"), from PIE *led- "slow, weary," from root *lē- "to let go, slacken."
From mid-13c. as "occurring in the latter part of a period of time." From c. 1400 as "being or occurring in the near, or not too distant, past; recent" (of late). From this comes the early 15c. sense "recently dead, not many years dead" (as in the late Mrs. Smith). Of menstruation, attested colloquially from 1962. Expression better late than never is attested from late 15c. As an adverb, from Old English late "slowly."
c. 1200, "latest, final, following all others," a contraction of Old English latost (adj.) "slowest, latest," superlative of læt (see late); in some uses from late (adv.). Cognate with Old Frisian lest, Dutch laatst, Old High German laggost, German letzt.
Meaning "last in space, furthest, most remote" is from late 14c.; meaning "most unlikely or unsuitable" is from mid-15c. Meaning "most recent, next before the present" (as in last night, last September) is from late 14c.; latest would be more correct, but idiom rules and the last time I saw her might mean the most recent time this hour or the final time forever.
The biblical last days ("belonging to the end") is attested from late 14c. Last hurrah is from the title of Edwin O'Connor's 1956 novel. Last word "final, definitive statement" is from 1650s. A dying person's last words so called by 1740. As an adjective, last-minute attested from 1913. Last-chance (adj.) is from 1962. Expression if it's the last thing I do, expressing strong determination, is attested by 1905.
c. 1300, of lords, "entitled to feudal allegiance and service," from Anglo-French lige (late 13c.), Old French lige "liege-lord," noun use of an adjective meaning "free, giving or receiving fidelity" (corresponding to Medieval Latin ligius, legius), a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Late Latin laeticus "cultivated by serfs," from laetus "serf, semi-free colonist," which probably is from Proto-Germanic *lethigaz "freed" (source also of Old English læt "half-freedman, serf;" Old High German laz, Old Frisian lethar "freedman;" Middle Dutch ledich "idle, unemployed"), from extended form of PIE root *lē- "to let go, slacken." Or the Middle English word might be directly from Old High German leidig "free," on the notion of "free from obligation to service except as vassal to one lord," but this reverses the notion contained in the word.
From late 14c. of vassals, "bound to render feudal allegiance and service." The dual sense of the adjective reflects the reciprocal relationship it describes: protection in exchange for service. Hence, liege-man "a vassal sworn to the service and support of a lord, who in turn is obliged to protect him" (mid-14c.).
Old English wicce "female magician, sorceress," in later use especially "a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their cooperation to perform supernatural acts," fem. of Old English wicca "sorcerer, wizard, man who practices witchcraft or magic," from verb wiccian "to practice witchcraft" (compare Low German wikken, wicken "to use witchcraft," wikker, wicker "soothsayer").
OED says of uncertain origin; Liberman says "None of the proposed etymologies of witch is free from phonetic or semantic difficulties." Klein suggests connection with Old English wigle "divination," and wig, wih "idol." Watkins says the nouns represent a Proto-Germanic *wikkjaz "necromancer" (one who wakes the dead), from PIE *weg-yo-, from PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively."
That wicce once had a more specific sense than the later general one of "female magician, sorceress" perhaps is suggested by the presence of other words in Old English describing more specific kinds of magical craft. In the Laws of Ælfred (c. 890), witchcraft was specifically singled out as a woman's craft, whose practitioners were not to be suffered to live among the West Saxons:
Ða fæmnan þe gewuniað onfon gealdorcræftigan & scinlæcan & wiccan, ne læt þu ða libban.
The other two words combined with it here are gealdricge, a woman who practices "incantations," and scinlæce "female wizard, woman magician," from a root meaning "phantom, evil spirit." Another word that appears in the Anglo-Saxon laws is lyblæca "wizard, sorcerer," but with suggestions of skill in the use of drugs, because the root of the word is lybb "drug, poison, charm" (see leaf (n.)). Lybbestre was a fem. word meaning "sorceress," and lybcorn was the name of a certain medicinal seed (perhaps wild saffron). Weekley notes possible connection to Gothic weihs "holy" and German weihan "consecrate," and writes, "the priests of a suppressed religion naturally become magicians to its successors or opponents." In Anglo-Saxon glossaries, wicca renders Latin augur (c. 1100), and wicce stands for "pythoness, divinatricem." In the "Three Kings of Cologne" (c. 1400) wicca translates Magi:
Þe paynyms ... cleped þe iij kyngis Magos, þat is to seye wicchis.
The glossary translates Latin necromantia ("demonum invocatio") with galdre, wiccecræft. The Anglo-Saxon poem called "Men's Crafts" (also "The Gifts of Men") has wiccræft, which appears to be the same word, and by its context means "skill with horses." In a c. 1250 translation of "Exodus," witches is used of the Egyptian midwives who save the newborn sons of the Hebrews: "Ðe wicches hidden hem for-ðan, Biforen pharaun nolden he ben." Witch in reference to a man survived in dialect into 20c., but the fem. form was so dominant by 1601 that men-witches or he-witch began to be used.
Extended sense of "old, ugly, and crabbed or malignant woman" is from early 15c; that of "young woman or girl of bewitching aspect or manners" is first recorded 1740. Witch doctor is from 1718; applied to African magicians from 1836.
At this day it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, 'she is a witch,' or 'she is a wise woman.' [Reginald Scot, "The Discoverie of Witchcraft," 1584]