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

  • adj. Capable of being but not yet in existence; latent: a potential problem.
  • adj. Having possibility, capability, or power.
  • adj. Grammar Of, relating to, or being a verbal construction with auxiliaries such as may or can; for example, it may snow.
  • n. The inherent ability or capacity for growth, development, or coming into being.
  • n. Something possessing the capacity for growth or development.
  • n. Grammar A potential verb form.
  • n. Physics The work required to move a unit of positive charge, a magnetic pole, or an amount of mass from a reference point to a designated point in a static electric, magnetic, or gravitational field; potential energy.
  • n. See potential difference.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Currently unrealized ability (with the most common adposition being to)
  • n. The work (energy) required to bring a unit positive electric charge from an infinite distance to a specified point against an electric field.
  • n. A verbal construction or form stating something is possible or probable.
  • adj. Existing in possibility, not in actuality.
  • adj. Being potent; endowed with energy adequate to a result; efficacious; influential.
  • adj. A potential field is an irrotational (static) field.
  • adj. A potential flow is an irrotational flow.
  • adj. Referring to a verbal construction of form stating something is possible or probable.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Being potent; endowed with energy adequate to a result; efficacious; influential.
  • adj. Existing in possibility, not in actuality.
  • n. Anything that may be possible; a possibility; potentially.
  • n. In the theory of gravitation, or of other forces acting in space, a function of the rectangular coordinates which determine the position of a point, such that its differential coefficients with respect to the coördinates are equal to the components of the force at the point considered; -- also called potential function, or force function. It is called also Newtonian potential when the force is directed to a fixed center and is inversely as the square of the distance from the center.
  • n. The energy of an electrical charge measured by its power to do work; hence, the degree of electrification as referred to some standard, as that of the earth; electro-motive force.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Potent; powerful; mighty.
  • Possible, as opposed to actual; capable of being or becoming; capable of coming into full being or manifestation.
  • In physics, existing in a positional form, not as motion: especially in the phrase potential energy.
  • In grammar, expressing power or possibility: as, the potential mode; potential forms.
  • See phrase under participle
  • n. Anything that may be possible; a possibility.
  • n. In dynamics: The sum of the products of all the pairs of masses of a system, each product divided by the distance between the pair.
  • n. More generally, the line-integral of the attractions of a conservative system from a fixed configuration to its actual configuration; the work that would be done by a system of attracting and repelling masses (obeying the law of energy) in moving from situations infinitely remote from one another (or from any other fixed situations) to their actual situation.
  • n. In electrostatics, at any point near or within an electrified body, the quantity of work necessary to bring a unit of positive electricity from an infinite distance to that point, the given distribution of electricity remaining unaltered. See equipotential.
  • n. A scalar quantity distributed through space in such a way that its slope represents a given vector quantity distributed through space.
  • n. In electricity, an incorrect abbreviation of potential difference, or electric pressure.

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

  • n. the inherent capacity for coming into being
  • adj. existing in possibility
  • adj. expected to become or be; in prospect
  • n. the difference in electrical charge between two points in a circuit expressed in volts


Middle English potencial, from Old French potenciel, from Late Latin potentiālis, powerful, from Latin potentia, power, from potēns, potent-, present participle of posse, to be able; see potent.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Late Latin potentialis, from Latin potentia ("power"), from potens ("powerful"); see potent. (Wiktionary)



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

  • Po-Te-N-Ti-Al (polonium, tellurium, nitrogen, thallium, aluminium).

    February 3, 2013