latent

adjective
la·​tent | \ ˈlā-tᵊnt How to pronounce latent (audio) \

Definition of latent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: present and capable of emerging or developing but not now visible, obvious, active, or symptomatic a latent infection

latent

noun
la·​tent | \ ˈlā-tᵊnt How to pronounce latent (audio) \

Definition of latent (Entry 2 of 2)

: a fingerprint (as at the scene of a crime) that is scarcely visible but can be developed for study

called also latent fingerprint, latent print

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from latent

Adjective

latently adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for latent

Synonyms: Adjective

dead, dormant, fallow, free, idle, inactive, inert, inoperative, off, unused, vacant

Antonyms: Adjective

active, alive, busy, employed, functioning, going, living, on, operating, operative, running, working

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for latent

Adjective

latent, dormant, quiescent, potential mean not now showing signs of activity or existence. latent applies to a power or quality that has not yet come forth but may emerge and develop. a latent desire for success dormant suggests the inactivity of something (such as a feeling or power) as though sleeping. their passion had lain dormant quiescent suggests a usually temporary cessation of activity. the disease was quiescent potential applies to what does not yet have existence or effect but is likely soon to have. a potential disaster

Examples of latent in a Sentence

Adjective

On the ground in Afghanistan there is some latent, if wary, gratitude for American aid over the years, but no one expects to build a foundation for the Taliban's downfall on a couple of million rice cakes. — Michael Duffy, Time, 15 Oct. 2001 There were such inexhaustible possibilities still before her, such opportunities to bring out the latent graces of the old place, without a single irreverent touch of alteration, that the winter months were all too short to plan what spring and autumn executed. — Edith Wharton, Afterward, 1910 Calm, gentle, passionless, as he appeared, there was yet, we fear, a quiet depth of malice, hitherto latent, but active now, in this unfortunate old man, which led him to imagine a more intimate revenge than any mortal had ever wreaked upon an enemy. — Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, 1850 he has a latent talent for acting that he hasn't had a chance to express yet
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

That both influences are short stories is relevant; Mr. Lee’s book loses some of its latent horror by being stretched into a novel, even a short one. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: They Fall to Earth, We Know Not Where," 18 Jan. 2019 But Halloween, that most psychically liberating of holidays, seems to have unleashed their not-so-latent exhibitionist tendencies. Kevin Conley, Town & Country, "Welcome to the Neighborhood, Jeff Koons!," 31 Oct. 2014 Tensions and peculiarities like this are latent throughout the exhibition. Edward Rothstein, WSJ, "A Historical Society Grapples With the Past," 10 Oct. 2018 And yes: Carell was good too, mining just a little bit of the latent pathetic Michael Scott, but for a guy who actually had power. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Vice doesn’t want to humanize Dick Cheney. So instead, it (maybe) demonizes America.," 21 Dec. 2018 Now the holidays have brought out yet another latent fashion persona: Liberace. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "For Sam Smith, It’s a Very Liberace Christmas," 14 Dec. 2018 Some, for instance, believed [transgerism] was a coping mechanism to 'rectify' latent feelings of homosexuality, or the result of environmental trauma or 'poor' parenting. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Transgender Women Are Women. Transgender Men Are Men.," 23 Oct. 2018 If slasher films are morality plays born out of America’s latent Puritanical values, Halloween is the film that codified it all. Bryan Bishop, The Verge, "The new Halloween is a slasher movie with an actual message," 19 Oct. 2018 There's a lot of latent sibling tension that rings very close to the time Kevin called out Randall for being the favorite on This Is Us. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House Is Basically a Scary This Is Us," 16 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Barack Obama’s victory, the visible symbol of a changing America that no voter could ignore, took all of these latent divides and turbocharged them. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "The 9 thinkers who made sense of 2018’s chaos," 27 Dec. 2018 Obama’s victory, the visible symbol of a changing America that no voter could ignore, took all of these latent divides and turbocharged them. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "The midterm elections revealed that America is in a cold civil war," 7 Nov. 2018 There is nothing as intoxicating as possibility, and the promise latent in every beauty consumable, no matter how tackily packaged or how ludicrous its claims, is matched only by the near guarantee of equivalent disappointment. Charlotte Shane, The Cut, "I Think About This a Lot: Emily Weiss’s Wedding Prep Routine," 3 Apr. 2018 Most of those deposits are cash, taken off the streets and thereby reducing the latent, associated threat of robbery — a threat not just to those working in the industry but also to the ordinary people around them. Robb Mandelbaum, New York Times, "Where Pot Entrepreneurs Go When the Banks Just Say No," 4 Jan. 2018 Instead, the characters in this play learn to love one another, traveling into the light and finding their way to the meaning of God through the latent divine spark within each of us. Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Funny nativity play captures humble spirit of Christmas," 16 Dec. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'latent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of latent

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun

1920, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for latent

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Latin latent-, latens, from present participle of latēre to lie hidden; akin to Greek lanthanein to escape notice

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about latent

Statistics for latent

Last Updated

27 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for latent

The first known use of latent was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for latent

latent

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of latent

used to describe something (such as a disease) that exists but is not active or cannot be seen

latent

adjective
la·​tent | \ ˈlā-tᵊnt How to pronounce latent (audio) \

Kids Definition of latent

: present but not visible or active a latent infection

latent

adjective
la·​tent | \ ˈlāt-ᵊnt How to pronounce latent (audio) \

Medical Definition of latent

: existing in hidden or dormant form: as
a : present or capable of living or developing in a host without producing visible symptoms of disease a latent virus a latent infection
b : not consciously expressed latent anxiety
c : relating to or being the latent content of a dream or thought

Other Words from latent

latently adverb

Keep scrolling for more

latent

adjective
la·​tent | \ ˈlāt-ᵊnt How to pronounce latent (audio) \

Legal Definition of latent

: existing in hidden or dormant form but usually capable of being brought to light — compare patent

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on latent

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with latent

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for latent

Spanish Central: Translation of latent

Nglish: Translation of latent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of latent for Arabic Speakers

Comments on latent

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

WORD OF THE DAY

something valued as if it were money

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!