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

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

Adjective 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 After improbably winning their wild-card playoff game on a kickoff return lateral -- later known as the Music City Miracle -- the Titans carried that momentum all the way to Super Bowl XXXIV. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, "Oh-so-close to greatness: From the Titans to Butler, these are the top just-missed moments in sports history," 3 June 2020 His lateral quickness, high motor and textbook jumper should earn Vassell a spot in an NBA rotation as a rookie. Connor Letourneau,, "Six potential sleepers for the Warriors in a critical NBA draft," 13 June 2020 Perhaps Bush was ahead of his time with the lateral attempt. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, "Remembering top plays, stats and moments from Reggie Bush's USC Trojans career," 12 June 2020 Arlington police will also give a report on what has been done so far, including the decision to reclassify lateral neck restraints as deadly force. Dallas News, "‘You feel like you’re not worth anything’: Arlington passes resolution to combat racial inequality," 12 June 2020 The sporty theme continues on the inside, with some red-and-black winged seats that offer more support to keep you in place as the lateral Gs begin to increase. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "Honda’s Civic Si is a car for people who wish they could drive a Gundam," 11 June 2020 And in Miami, police officers are prohibited from utilizing the LVNR (lateral vascular neck restraint) chokehold, neck hold any any other restraint that restricts free movement of the neck or heard or restricts an individual's ability to breathe. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, "The cities, states and countries finally putting an end to police neck restraints," 10 June 2020 On the skidpad, the CR-V's 0.75-g lateral grip was identical to the RAV4's. Steve Spence, Car and Driver, "Tested: 1997 Honda CR-V Launches Honda into the SUV Race," 9 June 2020 Further research indicated that activities involving cross-lateral movement, or reaching across the body with arms and legs, specifically helps the two sides of the brain connect and communicate. Michelle Z. Donahue, National Geographic, "Worried about a coronavirus summer slump? Boost kids’ brainpower with nature.," 21 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Like that improbable loss, this one ended on a goofy play complete with laterals, missed tackles, fumbles, and a bunch of dejected Patriots., "In the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady Era, the Patriots have not reached the Super Bowl without securing the coveted first-round bye.," 31 Dec. 2019 Both had numerous water spouts up to 2 feet or more in length, but the ends of the laterals have grown only inches in four years on both trees. oregonlive, "Ask an expert: Sure, it’s a weed, but it’s edible, easy to pull," 1 Mar. 2020 The Permian Basin of West Texas dominated the list with eight of the 10 longest laterals. Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle, "Drilling Down: The 10 longest horizontal wells in Texas," 16 Dec. 2019 As if that wasn’t wild enough, the Falcons then scored again on a fumble recovery by Olamide Zaccheaus on the ensuing kickoff in which the Niners attempted multiple laterals. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, "Falcons stun 49ers on Julio Jones' score in wild game-ending sequence," 16 Dec. 2019 Allen laterals right to McCaffrey, his pass short right intended for Hogan. oregonlive, "Seattle Seahawks hang on - again - to defeat the Carolina Panthers: Live updates recap, score, stats and more," 15 Dec. 2019 Max Borghi ran in the winning touchdown with two seconds to play, and after an unsuccessful series of laterals on the Beavers’ ensuing kickoff return, the celebration was on for the home team. oregonlive, "Pushed to brink in Pullman: Describe Oregon State’s loss at Washington State in 5 words or less," 24 Nov. 2019 It is expected that residents will each pay about $15,000 as their share of the project, plus a portion of the $5,000 per property that is residents’ responsibility to connect the sanitary sewers with their laterals., "Gates Mills Blvd. sewer project to put dent in Pepper Pike residents’ bank accounts," 18 July 2019 Pickett hit a wide-open Aaron Mathews for a 43-yard score after a pair of laterals to give Pitt a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Pitt beats Syracuse 27-20; defense racks up 9 sacks," 18 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Quarterback Ryan Tannehill connected with Kenny Stills, who tossed the ball to DeVante Parker, who lateraled to Kenyan Drake, who ran 52 yards for the game-winning score, outrunning Rob Gronkowski en route to the end zone. Jim Reineking, USA TODAY, "Greatest trick plays in NFL history, from Philly Special to Dan Marino's fake spike," 1 Apr. 2020 Brady recovered and lateraled to Ben Watson, who sent it back to Edelman, who flung it back to Thuney., "Save for one play when Fitzpatrick recovered his own fumble, Miami passed the entire drive and the Patriots couldn’t stop it. The biggest play came just after the two-minute warning when," 31 Dec. 2019 The big guard lateraled to Mohamed Sanu, who shipped it back to White, who fumbled, ending the play., "Save for one play when Fitzpatrick recovered his own fumble, Miami passed the entire drive and the Patriots couldn’t stop it. The biggest play came just after the two-minute warning when," 31 Dec. 2019 Renfrow lateraled to tight end Marcell Ateman, who gained nine more yards. Ryan O’halloran, The Denver Post, "Rating The Broncos: Defense overcomes train-wreck play to survive Raiders’ comeback," 30 Dec. 2019 On the Ducks' final play, with one second left on the clock, Chris Miller throws a 15-yard pass to Kwante Hampton, who laterals to Ladaria Johnson. oregonlive, "Civil War football history: The Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers’ 122 meetings, game by game," 25 Nov. 2019 On the 49ers’ next drive, Garoppolo lateraled to wideout Deebo Samuel, who pitched the ball to Sanders, who tossed an off-his-back-foot pass under pressure to all-alone running back Raheem Mostert for a 35-yard touchdown. Eric Branch,, "49ers stand toe-to-toe with Saints, win 48-46 on last-second FG," 8 Dec. 2019 The Titans did some razzle-dazzle on the second score, with Madonna handing off to Ramsey, who lateraled it back, and Madonna saw Jordan Kwiatkowski uncovered for a 63-yard TD. Wright Wilson, Detroit Free Press, "Davison does what it does best, rallies to beat Stevenson in OT in Division 1 state football semi," 23 Nov. 2019 Rodriguez first tackled one ball-carrier, who lateraled it, then sniffed out another ball-carrier who coughed it up, and finally another. Hayes Gardner, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky football's Chris Rodriguez emerges as a 'game-changer' in loss to Tennessee," 11 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for lateral

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for lateral

Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Lateral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for lateral


How to pronounce lateral (audio)

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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