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Form of energy that an object has by reason of its motion. The kind of motion may be translation (motion along a path from one place to another), rotation about an axis, vibration, or any combination of motions. The total kinetic energy of a body or system is equal to the sum of the kinetic energies resulting from each type of motion. The kinetic energy of an object depends on its mass and velocity. For instance, the amount of kinetic energy KE of an object in translational motion is equal to one-half the product of its mass m and the square of its velocity v, or KE = mv2, provided the speed is low relative to the speed of light. At higher speeds, relativity changes the relationship.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on kinetic energy, visit Britannica.com.