Reconstructions of Quaternary climate are often based on the isotopic content of paleo-precipitation preserved in proxy records. While many paleo-precipitation isotope records are available, few studies have synthesized these dispersed records to explore spatial patterns of late-glacial precipitation delta(sup 18)O. Here we present a synthesis of 86 globally distributed groundwater (n 59), cave calcite (n 15) and ice core (n 12) isotope records spanning the late-glacial (defined as 50,000 to 20,000 years ago) to the late-Holocene (within the past 5000 years). We show that precipitation delta(sup 18)O changes from the late-glacial to the late-Holocene range from -7.1% (delta(sup 18)O(late-Holocene) > delta(sup 18)O(late-glacial) to +1.7% (delta(sup 18)O(late-glacial) > delta(sup 18)O(late-Holocene), with the majority (77) of records having lower late-glacial delta(sup 18)O than late-Holocene delta(sup 18)O values. High-magnitude, negative precipitation delta(sup 18)O shifts are common at high latitudes, high altitudes and continental interiors.