lat·​er·​al | \ ˈla-tə-rəl also ˈla-trəl How to pronounce lateral (audio) \

Definition of lateral

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : of or relating to the side a lateral view
2 : situated on, directed toward, or coming from the side the lateral branches of a tree
3 : extending from side to side the lateral axis of an airplane
4 phonetics : produced with passage of breath around the side of a constriction formed with the tongue \l\ is lateral



Definition of lateral (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a branch from the main part (as in an irrigation or electrical system)
2 : a pass in football thrown parallel to the line of scrimmage or in a direction away from the opponent's goal
3 : a lateral speech sound


lateraled; lateraling; laterals

Definition of lateral (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to throw a lateral

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Other Words from lateral


laterally adverb

Synonyms for lateral

Synonyms: Adjective


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Did You Know?

Lateral shows up in all kinds of contexts. A lateral job change is one that keeps you at about the same job level and salary. A coach might have special drills to improve his players' lateral speed and agility. The British speak of "lateral thinking", thinking that grabs ideas that may not seem to be relevant but turn out to work well—what we might call "thinking outside the box". But we know lateral best from football. A lateral pass is a pass of the ball between teammates that usually goes to the side and slightly backward from the direction in which they're advancing; unlike a forward pass, a lateral may be made from any position, and any number may be made in a single play.

Examples of lateral in a Sentence


the lateral force of an earthquake from the lateral view you can see how thick the wall really is

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

All of the moves in Portland were lateral at best, and altogether, this is more likely a step back. The Si Staff,, "Debating the Best and Worst Deals of NBA Free Agency," 5 July 2019 At 6-foot-9 and 224 pounds, with a 7-foot wingspan, a 37-inch vertical leap, lateral quickness and a knack for timing blocks, Bell has all the makings of a prototypical small-ball center. Connor Letourneau,, "Jordan Bell: Enigmatic big man might be out of chances with Warriors," 26 June 2019 Publicly available tools such as IntelliAdmin to execute RPC commands, SScan and NBTScan for network reconnaissance, PsExec for execution and lateral movement, and Mimikatz (Hacktool. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Nation-sponsored hackers likely carried out hostile takeover of rival group’s servers," 20 June 2019 Other feedback included a desire for increased upper body strength and better lateral movement., "Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle: Is Division I men’s basketball slowly turning into more of a junior college mode?," 6 June 2019 Foster tore the anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament in his left knee. Mark Inabinett |,, "Shaun Dion Hamilton tagged ‘most improved’ by Washington Redskins coach," 17 June 2019 On the inner part of the knee is the medial collateral ligament, with the lateral collateral ligament on the outer part. Colin Hoobler,, "Klay Thompson’s torn ACL: How rehabilitation and return might go for the Golden State Warriors guard," 17 June 2019 Leading the second team, Drew Stanton tried to copy Mayfield’s scramble and lateral, but his toss clearly went forward, drawing a flag. Scott Patsko,, "Browns minicamp offensive report: Laterals and no-huddle plays rule the day," 6 June 2019 In various contemporary black costumes by An D’Huys, and bathed at times in Jan Versweyveld’s golden lighting, the cast, when advancing and receding in lines lateral to the audience, creates the effect of inked musical notes on aged paper. Robert Greskovic, WSJ, "‘The Six Brandenburg Concertos’ Review: Falling Short of Bach," 5 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Miami Miracle, when the Dolphins notched a last-second win over the New England Patriots off a series of laterals, is nominated for Best Play. Christian Simmons,, "Miami Miracle among several ESPYS nominations that feature South Florida ties," 19 June 2019 Fixing sewer laterals costs anywhere from a few thousand dollars to more than $10,000, depending on the length of pipe needed. Claudia Vargas,, "'Nightmare on Monroe Street': A tiny Queen Village block's six-year feud with the Philly Water Department," 6 July 2018 Some of the laterals might still be the clay originals. Claudia Vargas,, "'Nightmare on Monroe Street': A tiny Queen Village block's six-year feud with the Philly Water Department," 6 July 2018 Digging up streets to install sewer laterals, which lead from the sewer main to individual homes. Bob Sandrick,, "Cost of Strongsville sanitary sewer project rises by 24 percent," 30 Apr. 2018 The first crop will form on shoots directly from these arms; future crops will form on shoots from laterals off these arms. The Editors Of Organic Life, Good Housekeeping, "How To Grow Your Own Kiwis In Your Backyard," 6 Feb. 2018 The assets being sold do not include the customer service laterals that run from the curb to each customer’s homes, or any interior plumbing in homes. Andrew Maykuth,, "Pa. American buys Chesco sewer system for $9.25M," 2 May 2018 Mikula said that laterals usually are installed through bores or holes drilled in the road. Bob Sandrick,, "Cost of Strongsville sanitary sewer project rises by 24 percent," 30 Apr. 2018 Together, the two laterals pushed overall footage at the well, called CD5-25, to a little over eight miles, at 42,993 feet, the company said. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, "ConocoPhillips claims North American record for horizontal drilling," 23 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The two connected again two players later, with Higgins lateraling the ball to Nick Chubb to gain a few more yards. Scott Patsko,, "Browns minicamp offensive report: Laterals and no-huddle plays rule the day," 6 June 2019 There was a play where a guy purposely lateraled past the line of scrimmage. Jason Gay, WSJ, "Would You Watch Football Without All the Violence?," 21 Nov. 2018 Grugier-Hill didn’t bite on an option play in which Foles lateraled to Wallace and the receiver heaved a deep pass to running back Matt Jones. Jeff Mclane,, "Eagles practice observations: Jalen Mills locks down; Nelson Agholor explodes; Dallas Goedert catches on," 13 June 2018 Hayward pitched the ball off to Miami’s Reshad Jones, who then lateraled it to Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey for a return of 23 yards. J.c. Carnahan,, "AFC prevails in Pro Bowl on Delanie Walker's late TD catch," 29 Jan. 2018 Wilson tossed the ball to the running back J.D. McKissic, who then lateraled the ball back across the field to Wilson, who launched a 38-yard pass down the field. Tim Rohan,, "Seahawks Find Their Groove in Second Half and Take Down Giants 24–7," 22 Oct. 2017 Quarterback Jared Goff completed a short pass to receiver Pharoh Cooper, who lateraled the ball to Tavon Austin. Gary Klein,, "Eagles 14, Rams 7: Carson Wentz throws 20-yard touchdown pass to Trey Burton," 10 Dec. 2017 The Chiefs won the toss and promptly threatened again when lineman Buck Buchanan lateraled Yepremian's short kick to Podolak, who returned to his 46. By Bob Rubin, miamiherald, "When Christmas dinner was delayed as the Miami Dolphins played on and on," 19 Dec. 2016 The Skins threw a screen pass and started desperately lateraling the ball all over the field. Dan Gartland,, "A Meaningless Chiefs Touchdown Screwed Gamblers in Two Ways," 3 Oct. 2017

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

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First Known Use of lateral


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1578, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1930, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for lateral

Adjective, Noun, and Verb

Middle English laterale, from Latin lateralis, from later-, latus side

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Statistics for lateral

Last Updated

9 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for lateral

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

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More Definitions for lateral



English Language Learners Definition of lateral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: toward, on, or coming from the side



English Language Learners Definition of lateral (Entry 2 of 2)

American football : a pass thrown to the side or backward


lat·​er·​al | \ ˈla-tə-rəl How to pronounce lateral (audio) \

Kids Definition of lateral

: being on or directed toward the side lateral movement

Other Words from lateral

laterally adverb


lat·​er·​al | \ ˈlat-ə-rəl, ˈla-trəl How to pronounce lateral (audio) \

Medical Definition of lateral

: of or relating to the side especially, of a body part : lying at or extending toward the right or left side : lying away from the median axis of the body the lungs are lateral to the heart the lateral branch of the axillary artery

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Comments on lateral

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characterized by aphorism

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