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Energy stored by an object by virtue of its position. For example, an object raised above the ground acquires potential energy equal to the work done against the force of gravity; the energy is released as kinetic energy when it falls back to the ground. Similarly, a stretched spring has stored potential energy that is released when the spring is returned to its unstretched state. Other forms of potential energy include electrical potential energy, chemical energy, and nuclear energy.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on potential energy, visit Britannica.com.