from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Of, relating to, or situated at or on the side.
  • adjective Of or constituting a change within an organization or hierarchy to a position at a similar level, as in salary or responsibility, to the one being left.
  • adjective Linguistics Of, relating to, or being a sound produced by breath passing along one or both sides of the tongue.
  • noun A lateral part, projection, passage, or appendage.
  • noun Football A lateral pass.
  • noun Linguistics A lateral sound, such as (l).
  • intransitive verb To execute a lateral pass.
  • intransitive verb To pass (the ball) sideways or backward.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Of or pertaining to the side; situated at, proceeding from, or directed to a side: as, a lateral projection; lateral shoots or branches; a lateral view.
  • In anatomy and zoology, situated on either side of the median vertical longitudinal plane of the body; lying laterad of the meson: as, the lateral ventricles of the brain; the lateral line of a fish; the lateral margin of a thorax, elytrum, or abdomen.
  • In conchology, specifically, situated on either side of the hinge: contrasted with cardinal: as, the lateral tooth of a bivalve. Also admedian.
  • In botany, belonging to or borne upon the side of any organ: sometimes contrasted with terminal (as, lateral buds), sometimes with medial (as, lateral ribs or nerves of a leaf or glume).
  • In physics and mech., at right angles to a line of motion or of strain.
  • noun In conch.:
  • noun A lateral or admedian tooth of a bivalve, as distinguished from a cardinal tooth. See cut under bivalve.
  • noun One of the uncini, or uncinal teeth of the radula.
  • noun A side branch or division of anything; a part projecting from one side; specifically, in a grape-vine, one of the side shoots which spring from the axils of the leaves of a main shoot.
  • noun A small ditch or distributary from a main or principal irrigation ditch.
  • noun plural In the pelecypod mollusks, the lateral hinge-teeth, those lying at the sides or ends of the hinge-plate, anterior or posterior to the median or cardinal teeth.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Football) A short pass to a receiver who is upfield from the passer, i.e. is behind the passer relative to the direction of the passer's goal.
  • noun A part or extension of something that points sideways, as a drift in a mine that goes to the side from the main one.
  • verb (Football) To pass the footbal to a receiver who is behind the passer; to make a lateral pass.
  • adjective Of or pertaining to the sides
  • adjective (Anat.) Lying at, or extending toward, the side; away from the mesial plane; external; -- opposed to mesial.
  • adjective Directed to the side.
  • adjective (Crystallog.) cleavage parallel to the lateral planes.
  • adjective (Math.), [Obs.] an equation of the first degree.
  • adjective (Anat.) in fishes, a line of sensory organs along either side of the body, often marked by a distinct line of color.
  • adjective (Mech.) a pressure or stress at right angles to the length, as of a beam or bridge; -- distinguished from longitudinal pressure or stress.
  • adjective (Mech.) strength which resists a tendency to fracture arising from lateral pressure.
  • adjective (Bridge Building) the system of horizontal braces (as between two vertical trusses) by which lateral stiffness is secured.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective To the side; of or pertaining to the side.
  • adjective anatomy Pertaining to the left or right of the body; further from the midline.
  • adjective this sense?) (botany) Pertaining to the girth of an organ, rather than its thickness or length.
  • adjective linguistics Pertaining to sounds that are generated by partially blocking the egress of the airstream with the tip of the tongue touching the alveolar ridge, leaving space on one or both sides of the occlusion for the air passage.
  • noun an object, such as a passage or a protrusion, that is situated on the side of something else
  • noun linguistics a sound produced through lateral pronunciation (such as /l/ in lateral)
  • noun American football a lateral pass
  • verb To move (oneself or something) in a lateral direction
  • verb American football To execute a lateral pass

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

  • adjective situated at or extending to the side
  • adjective lying away from the median and sagittal plane of a body
  • noun a pass to a receiver upfield from the passer


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

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin laterālis, from latus, later-, side.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin laterālis ("belonging to the side"), from latus ("a side")


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word lateral.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Hunh, the grey definitions up above don't even include the common phonetic terms:

    adj. produced by one side of the tongue, as in various kinds of /l/ sound;

    n. a lateral consonant; an /l/ sound.

    But I actually dropped by here to add a new sense I just found:

    n. a lateral hire, a person hired laterally (such as from a rival firm).

    August 28, 2008