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Quantity that designates the speed and direction in which a body moves. It can be represented graphically by an arrow (pointing in the direction of the motion), the length of which is proportional to the magnitude, or speed. For an object in circular motion, the direction at any instant is tangential to the circle at that point, and so is perpendicular to the radius at that point. The instantaneous speed of a vehicle, such as an automobile, can be determined by a speedometer, or mathematically by differential calculus. The average speed is the ratio of the distance traveled in any given time interval divided by the time taken.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on velocity, visit Britannica.com.