action potential


: a momentary reversal in electrical potential across a plasma membrane (as of a neuron or muscle fiber) that occurs when a cell has been activated by a stimulus

Examples of action potential in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web When neurons fire, action potentials – brief, high-voltage spikes traveling outward from their cell bodies – set up local electrical activity in other neurons, causing current to flow within and outside them. Giridhar Kalamangalam, Discover Magazine, 4 Apr. 2024 The crux of his argument is that, yes, our brains work through action potentials and neurotransmitters and other molecular phenomena. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, 12 Nov. 2023 The pressure information from the e-dermis is converted into neuron-like pulses that are similar to the spikes of electricity, or action potentials, that living neurons use to communicate. IEEE Spectrum, 20 June 2018 The sequel to 2005 hit Lord of War, with the ever-bankable Cage reprising his role as conflicted international arms dealer Yuri Orlov and Skarsgard as the son trying to outdo his dad’s mercantile excesses, should find eager buyers aiming for an indie title with crossover action potential. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 May 2023 Hedrich and his team found that the mutation did not seem to affect either the action potential or the underlying calcium signal in the first two-count stage of the process. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 27 Jan. 2023 The heart and your guts both have action potential wavefronts that propagate through the tissue. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 22 July 2012 Each manipulated hair triggers an action potential — or electrical signal — that surges through the plant. Leslie Nemo, Discover Magazine, 28 Oct. 2020 In the heart, the action potential [electrical signal that travels along nerves – Ed] propagates as a wave through cardiac muscle. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 22 July 2012

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'action potential.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1913, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of action potential was in 1913

Dictionary Entries Near action potential

Cite this Entry

“Action potential.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Medical Definition

action potential

: a momentary reversal in the potential difference across a plasma membrane (as of a nerve cell or muscle fiber) that occurs when a cell has been activated by a stimulus

called also spike potential

compare resting potential see afterpotential, generator potential, prepotential

More from Merriam-Webster on action potential

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