Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A straight line intersecting a curve at two or more points.
  • n. The straight line drawn from the center through one end of a circular arc and intersecting the tangent to the other end of the arc.
  • n. The ratio of the length of this line to the length of the radius of the circle.
  • n. The reciprocal of the cosine of an angle in a right triangle.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A straight line that intersects a curve at two or more points.
  • n. In a right triangle, the reciprocal of the cosine of an angle. Symbol: sec

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Cutting; dividing into two parts.
  • n. A line that cuts another; especially, a straight line cutting a curve in two or more points.
  • n. A right line drawn from the center of a circle through one end of a circular arc, and terminated by a tangent drawn from the other end; the number expressing the ratio of this line to the radius of the circle. See Trigonometrical function, under Function.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Cutting; dividing into two parts.
  • n. A line which cuts a figure in any way.
  • n. Specifically, in trigonometry, a line from the center of a circle through one extremity of an are (whose secant it is said to be) to the tangent from the other extremity of the same are; or the ratio of this line to the radius; the reciprocal of the cosine.
  • Specifically, noting a stream which cuts across folded strata.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. ratio of the hypotenuse to the adjacent side of a right-angled triangle
  • n. a straight line that intersects a curve at two or more points

Etymologies

From Latin secāns, secant-, present participle of secāre, to cut.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin secans, present participle of secare ("to cut") (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "Few understood the Rule of Three; few could multiply with any certainty, nor yet divide; none knew the nature of a logarithm, a secant, a sine."
    "'...What do you make of it?'
    --Patrick O'Brian, The Ionian Mission, 120

    February 13, 2008