potential

adjective
po·​ten·​tial | \pə-ˈten(t)-shəl \

Definition of potential 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : existing in possibility : capable of development into actuality potential benefits

2 : expressing possibility specifically : of, relating to, or constituting a verb phrase expressing possibility, liberty, or power by the use of an auxiliary with the infinitive of the verb (as in "it may rain")

potential

noun

Definition of potential (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : something that can develop or become actual a potential for violence

b : promise sense 2

2a : any of various functions from which the intensity or the velocity at any point in a field may be readily calculated

b : the work required to move a unit positive charge from a reference point (as at infinity) to a point in question

c : potential difference

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from potential

Adjective

potentially \pə-​ˈten(t)-​sh(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for potential

Synonyms: Adjective

implicit, possible

Synonyms: Noun

capability, eventuality, possibility, potentiality, prospect

Antonyms: Adjective

actual, existent, factual, real

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for potential

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

Did You Know?

Potential can be either good or bad. Studying hard increases the potential for success, but wet roads increase the potential for accidents. But when a person or thing "has potential", we always expect something good from it in the future. As an adjective (as in "potential losses", "potential benefits", etc.), potential usually means simply "possible". In science, however, the adjective has a special meaning: Potential energy is the kind of stored energy that a boulder sitting at the top of a cliff has (the opposite of kinetic energy, which is what it has as it rolls down that cliff).

Examples of potential in a Sentence

Adjective

Doctors are excited about the new drug's potential benefits. Critics say the factory poses a potential threat to the environment. He is a potential candidate for president. The project has potential risks.

Noun

Scientists are exploring the potentials of the new drug. The new technology has the potential to transform the industry. There is potential in the new technology, but it will be a long time before it can actually be used. The company has a lot of potential for future growth. He has the potential to be one of the team's best players. He shows enormous potential as an athlete.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The most serious potential complication is a disorder called tardive dyskinesia (TD) that can cause involuntary movement of the eyes, face, and hands, facial grimacing, rapid eye blinking, and piano playing-like finger movement. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "9 Things You Should Know About Taking Antipsychotic Drugs," 7 Dec. 2018 Other potential performance pickups might come from security mitigation baked into the new Whiskey Lake U chips, rather than solved in the UEFI. Gordon Mah Ung, PCWorld, "Razer's Blade Stealth gets a long-awaited upgrade to GeForce graphics and a Whiskey Lake CPU," 4 Dec. 2018 Ikea is developing some 30 new city-center stores over the next three years, with potential locations in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Stay tuned. Jenny Xie, Curbed, "Ikea’s first city-center store in the U.S. to open in Manhattan," 3 Dec. 2018 Now Jamie’s godfather is poised to be a potential source of conflict in his new role as a Regulator. Sarene Leeds, Glamour, "7 Times Outlander Didn't Follow What Happened in the Book," 3 Dec. 2018 Source: Airline officials, airline documents, pilots Investigators haven’t determined exactly what role erroneous angle-of-attack data played in the Lion Air tragedy, and other potential malfunctions or factors may have contributed. Robert Wall, WSJ, "Lion Air Crash Probe Eyes Sensor Hazards Stretching Back Years," 18 Nov. 2018 Other standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, can spot other potential causes of the problem. Linda Marsa, Discover Magazine, "A New Treatment for Alzheimer's? It Starts With Lifestyle," 16 Nov. 2018 They're bundled together because that's how Florida's Constitutional Review Commission approved the potential changes, according to First Coast News. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "States will vote on these energy and environment issues in midterm elections," 4 Nov. 2018 But as fans of The Crown or Victoria know, potential royal titles still represent a huge matter of symbolic significance to both the monarch's family and the general public. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "This Is What Kate Middleton's Title Will Be When Prince William Becomes King," 25 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

There is no limit to the potential of disabled black women who use our disabilities as our strength, taking on the world and bringing justice to a society devoid of equality. Ola Ojewumi, SELF, "I'm Celebrating My Disabled Black Girl Magic Because I'm Done Feeling Invisible," 7 Nov. 2018 While the difficulties of building such an elevator are astronomical, the potential for financial benefits are equally large. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Space Elevators Getting First Test in Space," 4 Sep. 2018 The practical takeaway, according to the researchers, is that anything that lowers the levels of adenosine accumulating in your brain has the potential to improve your endurance performance. Alex Hutchinson, Outside Online, "Here’s What We Know About Mental Fatigue," 10 July 2018 There is also the potential for asbestos to be released from the bedrock of older homes, Gantt says. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "The Dangerous Health Risks That Could Follow the California Wildfires," 16 Nov. 2018 Martin Fussenegger, a bioengineer at ETH Zurich in Basel, Switzerland, has conducted several proof-of-concept studies in mouse models that show the potential of mammalian cellular cyborgs. Eric Smalley, Discover Magazine, "Cellular Cyborgs: How Programmable DNA Strands Might Control Healing," 25 Sep. 2018 Some in the publishing industry see potential for Barnes & Noble to solve its problems. Tiffany Hsu, The Seattle Times, "Barnes & Noble struggles to survive; founder is confident of turnaround," 28 Aug. 2018 The next 72 hours were critical; Hudson was stable, but there was potential for his brain to start swelling. Kerry Cromwell, Good Housekeeping, "My Little Boy Was Just 7 Years Old When He Had a Catastrophic Stroke," 26 July 2018 The October 2018 Update, delayed due to the potential for data loss, hasn’t been pushed to anyone but Windows Insiders. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Hints of Windows 10's 2019 future show up in early '19H1' builds," 6 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'potential.' 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 potential

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1587, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for potential

Adjective

Middle English potencial, from Late Latin potentialis, from potentia potentiality, from Latin, power, from potent-, potens

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about potential

Statistics for potential

Last Updated

10 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for potential

The first known use of potential was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for potential

potential

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of potential

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: capable of becoming real

potential

noun

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

: a chance or possibility that something will happen or exist in the future

: a quality that something has that can be developed to make it better

: an ability that someone has that can be developed to help that person become successful

potential

adjective
po·​ten·​tial | \pə-ˈten-shəl \

Kids Definition of potential

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: existing as a possibility : capable of becoming real potential dangers

Other Words from potential

potentially adverb a potentially profitable business

potential

noun

Kids Definition of potential (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the chance or possibility that something will develop and become real There is a potential for injury.

2 : an ability or quality that can lead to success or excellence : promise She has great potential as a musician.

potential

adjective
po·​ten·​tial | \pə-ˈten-chəl \

Medical Definition of potential 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: existing in possibility : capable of development into actuality

Other Words from potential

potentially \-​ˈtench-​(ə-​)lē \ adverb

potential

noun

Medical Definition of potential (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something that can develop or become actual

2a : any of various functions from which the intensity or the velocity at any point in a field may be readily calculated specifically : electrical potential

b : potential difference

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on potential

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

WORD OF THE DAY

a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

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!