Medical Definition of latency
1 or latency period or latent period a: the quality or state of being latent; especially : the state or period of living or developing in a host without producing symptoms <The cellular mechanisms by which viral latency is maintained or viral replication is induced is not known.—Science, 20 June 1986> <During this nonreplicating latent period, the virus' home is believed to be the ganglia of nerves serving the area where the herpes lesion initially appeared.—The Journal of the American Medical Association, 11 Nov. 1983>b: the time or period between exposure to a disease-causing agent or process and the onset of symptoms or disease <In the worst cases, chronic active hepatitis develops and can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and finally to hepatocellular carcinoma. … Usually the cancer does not develop until after a 30- to 50- year latency period …—Peter Tiollais and Marie-Annick Buenidia, Scientific American, April 1991>
2 usually latency period or latency stage : a stage of psychosexual development that follows the phallic stage and precedes the genital stage, extends from about the age of five or six to the beginning of puberty, and during which sexual urges often appear to lie dormant
3 or latent period : the time interval between application of a stimulus and the beginning of an identifiable response (such as muscle contraction) : reaction time
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