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

Other Words from lateral


laterally adverb

Synonyms for lateral

Synonyms: Adjective

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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 Table tennis takes plenty of hand-eye coordination along with a healthy blend of quick reactions skills and footwork, and lateral movement, not to mention a bit of strength and control of both your shoulders and forearms. Jeff Tomko, Men's Health, 13 May 2022 In the meantime, consider virtual segmentation to help detect lateral movement. Galina Antova, Forbes, 14 Apr. 2022 Isolation periods for those testing position for COVID have also been reduced to five days as long as lateral flow tests come back negative on the fifth and sixth days of self-isolation. K.j. Yossman, Variety, 26 Jan. 2022 In response, officials will be tripling the supply of lateral flow tests for January and February compared to their plan before the variant began to spread, Javid said. Tatiana Darie,, 1 Jan. 2022 In March, before the omicron variant started spreading, the U.K. Department of Health said that lateral flow tests were highly reliable and had an incidence of fewer than one false positive in every 1,000 tests carried out. NBC News, 22 Dec. 2021 There are reportedly fewer than one false positive in every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out. Irina Anghel,, 21 Dec. 2021 Validation studies for lateral flow tests have mostly focused on comparing sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values to PCR tests. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 22 Oct. 2021 And Dunham and Felber made that a priority: All guests were required to take two lateral flow tests as well as present proof of vaccination. Celia Ellenberg, Vogue, 29 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The accepted explanation has been that the swaying was due to a weird synchronicity between the bridge's lateral (sideways) sway and pedestrians' gaits—an example of emergent collective phenomena. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 20 Dec. 2021 However, Leonard's lateral was deemed to be forward and therefore a penalty. Scott Horner, The Indianapolis Star, 12 Oct. 2021 The Utes also showed great discipline on the play, staying home after Berryhill accepted the initial lateral. Michael Lev, The Arizona Republic, 15 Nov. 2021 At 12:43 of the first quarter, receiver Kendrick Bourne took a lateral from Jones, then threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to fellow receiver Nelson Agholor. Mark Daniels, USA TODAY, 24 Oct. 2021 Receiver Kendrick Bourne took a lateral from Mac Jones, then threw a 25-yard scoring strike to Nelson Agholor for 7-0 lead., 24 Oct. 2021 Johnson had a nifty 57 yard run on a lateral from Nix. al, 13 Nov. 2021 Shanahan went for razzle-dazzle with a lateral from running back Jacques Patrick to Garoppolo, who threw incomplete to George Kittle. Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 Oct. 2021 In Central Mass, Northbridge (6-1) beat Auburn 18-13 on the final play of the game after Ryan Boyce ran a draw down by 1 point, leaped a defender, then after 24 yards threw a lateral to Collin Falconer who raced the final 35 yards as time expired., 24 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Florida State tried to lateral the ball multiple times, but Clemson eventually picked up a fumble and scored. Christopher Smith, al, 31 Oct. 2021 The vast majority of the time, when a football team tries to lateral its way down the field in desperation, the result benefits the defending the team. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, 12 Sep. 2020 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, 1 Apr. 2020 Brady recovered and lateraled to Ben Watson, who sent it back to Edelman, who flung it back to Thuney., 31 Dec. 2019 The big guard lateraled to Mohamed Sanu, who shipped it back to White, who fumbled, ending the play., 31 Dec. 2019 Renfrow lateraled to tight end Marcell Ateman, who gained nine more yards. Ryan O’halloran, The Denver Post, 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, 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,, 8 Dec. 2019 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near lateral



lateral bud

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Statistics for lateral

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Lateral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for lateral


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

More from Merriam-Webster on lateral

Nglish: Translation of lateral for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of lateral for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about lateral


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