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lat·​er·​al ˈla-tə-rəl How to pronounce lateral (audio)
 also  ˈla-trəl
: of or relating to the side
a lateral view
: situated on, directed toward, or coming from the side
the lateral branches of a tree
: extending from side to side
the lateral axis of an airplane
phonetics : produced with passage of breath around the side of a constriction formed with the tongue
\l\ is lateral
laterally adverb


2 of 3


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


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lateraled; lateraling; laterals

intransitive verb

: to throw a lateral

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
The industry has also figured out ways to produce more oil and gas by lengthening the lateral wells that slash through hard shale rock, exposing more rock for fracture than was possible a few years ago. Clifford Krauss, New York Times, 1 Dec. 2023 The low bulwarks and lateral walkways continue a sense of space. Julia Zaltzman, Robb Report, 24 Nov. 2023 The right ankle injury that knocked Kupp out of the Rams’ victory over the Seattle Seahawks was determined to be only a lateral sprain, coach Sean McVay said. Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times, 21 Nov. 2023 Similar to the way supernovae serve as standard candles, providing a distance scale stretching from our eyeballs across the universe, BAOs provide a standard ruler—a length scale for lateral separations across the sky. Richard Panek, Scientific American, 14 Nov. 2023 Elevate The Importance Of Visibility A major challenge that continues to face organizations in the quest to secure the hybrid cloud is protecting against lateral movement—also known as East-West movement. Shane Buckley, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 There was a weaker apparent association between elevated biological age and Alzheimer’s disease and other motor neuron diseases, which include progressive spinal muscular atrophy and primary lateral sclerosis. Erin Prater, Fortune Well, 6 Nov. 2023 Other screenshots showed additional details, such as the post-exploit lateral movement to other parts of the victim’s network and the source of the attacks. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 6 Nov. 2023 He was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative condition also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, two years ago. Nicholas Rice, Peoplemag, 8 Oct. 2023
Cincinnati commuters probably know about the trash that piles up along Interstates 71 and 75, the Norwood lateral, Ronald Reagan Highway – the list goes on. Erin Couch, The Enquirer, 10 Sep. 2023 Cable Lateral Raises: Her trainer also loves to assign her cable lateral raises to build up her shoulders and glutes. Dominique Fluker, Essence, 8 Sep. 2023 Jones also infamously scored the game-winning touchdown against the New England Patriots on a botched lateral on the final play. Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY, 6 Sep. 2023 No one laterals or fumbles or randomly attempts a drop kick with the game on the line all season long. Globe Staff,, 1 Sep. 2023 After Braden Long's 19-yard touchdown run put Harrison (3-3, 1-2) on the scoreboard, the Saints responded with Bo Williams' 69-yard touchdown run and Mason's 47-yard touchdown pass from Cohen Beach, who caught a lateral from Baker and made the loss. Nwa Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas Online, 8 Oct. 2023 Patriots junior quarterback Eli Ruiz threw a lateral to senior wide receiver Quino Bracamontes, but Mission Bay met him before the line of scrimmage, resulting in a 7-yard loss. San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Sep. 2023 That blunder happened a week after Meyers’s lateral found a wide-open Chandler Jones for the winning touchdown … the problem being, of course, that Jones plays for the Las Vegas Raiders. Globe Staff,, 1 Sep. 2023 Down by a point after John Gordon Jr.’s TD run, Heights called for a lateral to Atkins, who ran in the winning 2-point conversion. Matt Goul, cleveland, 17 Sep. 2023
The Blazers and Bulldogs were held to empty drives on the next two possessions before UAB put together a strong drive into Louisiana Tech territory that ended with Williamson grabbing his second pick of the game and lateral it to Khalil Ladler for an 80-yard touchdown return. Evan Dudley, al, 1 Nov. 2020 By all accounts, there were no orders from Bill Belichick or Matt Patricia to lateral the ball and try to create a scoring play. Ben Volin,, 22 Dec. 2022 Bullock completed about a 10-yard pass to Cameron Augurson on a dig route, and Augurson was able to lateral the ball back to Jacob Emmers. Dallas News, 6 Sep. 2022 New England coach Bill Belichick declined to say whether the Patriots players had been instructed to lateral on the final play or reminded not to so with the score tied. Mark Inabinett |, al, 18 Dec. 2022 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 See More

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

Word History


Adjective, Noun, and Verb

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

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1578, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1930, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near lateral

Cite this Entry

“Lateral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
lat·​er·​al ˈlat-ə-rəl How to pronounce lateral (audio)
: of or relating to the side : located on, directed toward, or coming from the side
: being a part of the boundary of a solid in geometry that is not a base or completely included in a base
a lateral edge of a prism
a lateral face


2 of 2 noun
: a pass in football thrown to the side or to the rear

Medical Definition


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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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