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Rate of change of velocity. Acceleration, like velocity, is a vector quantity: it has both magnitude and direction. The velocity of an object moving on a straight path can change in magnitude only, so its acceleration is the rate of change of its speed. On a curved path, the velocity may or may not change in magnitude, but it will always change in direction, which means that the acceleration of an object moving on a curved path can never be zero. If velocity is stated in metres per second (m/s) and the time interval in seconds (s), then the units of acceleration are metres per second per second (m/s/s, or m/s2). See alsocentripetal acceleration.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on acceleration, visit Britannica.com.