# tangent

^{1}tan·gent

*adjective*\ˈtan-jənt\

## Definition of *TANGENT*

1

*a*

**:**meeting a curve or surface in a single point if a sufficiently small interval is considered <straight line

*tangent*to a curve>

*b*

*(1)*

**:**having a common tangent line at a point <

*tangent*curves>

*(2)*

**:**having a common tangent plane at a point <

*tangent*surfaces>

2

**:**diverging from an original purpose or course

**:**irrelevant <

*tangent*remarks>

## Origin of *TANGENT*

Latin

*tangent-, tangens,*present participle of*tangere*to touch; perhaps akin to Old English*thaccian*to touch gently, strokeFirst Known Use: 1594

## Other Mathematics and Statistics Terms

## Rhymes with *TANGENT*

^{2}tangent

*noun*

geometry : a line that touches a sphere or circle at only one point

## Full Definition of *TANGENT*

1

*a*

**:**the trigonometric function that for an acute angle is the ratio between the leg opposite to the angle when it is considered part of a right triangle and the leg adjacent

*b*

**:**a trigonometric function that is equal to the sine divided by the cosine for all real numbers θ for which the cosine is not equal to zero and is exactly equal to the tangent of an angle of measure θ in radians

2

**:**a line that is tangent;

*specifically*

**:**a straight line that is the limiting position of a secant of a curve through a fixed point and a variable point on the curve as the variable point approaches the fixed point

3

**:**an abrupt change of course

**:**digression <the speaker went off on a

*tangent*>

4

**:**a small upright flat-ended metal pin at the inner end of a clavichord key that strikes the string to produce the tone

## Examples of *TANGENT*

- <in the middle of her description of her dog's symptoms, she went off on a
*tangent*about its cute behavior>

## Origin of *TANGENT*

New Latin

*tangent-, tangens,*from*linea tangens*tangent lineFirst Known Use: 1594

## Related to *TANGENT*

- Synonyms
- aside, digression, divagation, excursion

## Other Mathematics and Statistics Terms

## Learn More About *TANGENT*

## Browse

**Ask The Editor** Videos

## Seen & Heard

What made you want to look up *tangent*? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).