potential

adjective
po·​ten·​tial | \ pə-ˈten(t)-shəl How to pronounce potential (audio) \

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
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

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Other Words from potential

Adjective

potentially \ pə-​ˈten(t)-​sh(ə-​)lē How to pronounce potentially (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for potential

Synonyms: Adjective

implicit, possible

Synonyms: Noun

capability, eventuality, possibility, potentiality, prospect

Antonyms: Adjective

actual, existent, factual, real

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

According to prosecutors, Mai posed as a potential customer to obtain chip designs from the unnamed company, then illegally sent the products to China. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "Professor faces 219-year prison sentence for sending missile chip tech to China," 6 July 2019 Global credit ratings agencies warned on Friday that Wang's detention could damage the real estate group's standing with partners, investors, financial institutions and potential customers. Rishi Iyengar, CNN, "Chinese real estate empire loses $5 billion in value after founder Wang Zhenhua detained," 5 July 2019 Transit ridership blues There’s lots of positive prospects about the future of mass transit, from the potential to battle climate change to reduce road congestion. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: San Diego transportation developments: big news, little news, grim news," 5 July 2019 John said the photos had the potential to be used as propaganda by ISIS and be harmful to U.S. forces overseas. CBS News, "Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher sentenced for posing with corpse of ISIS fighter," 3 July 2019 This epic fantasy, which subverts gender stereotypes and expectations, has the potential to break out in the mold of Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, with its fresh take on themes on vengeance and coming-of-age. David Canfield, EW.com, "First look: Next year's biggest YA fantasy could be All the Stars and Teeth," 2 July 2019 The first line of defense against money-laundering in the United Sates is the strict checks banks are forced to do on potential customers. Max De Haldevang, Quartz, "The American Bar Association is fighting Washington’s efforts to tackle money laundering," 1 July 2019 Pro tip:: Take time to articulate your vision and your mission and find ways to communicate both to potential customers, investors, employees and the everyday person. 2. Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press, "Game thread: Tigers lose to Nationals, 3-1," 28 June 2019 Deepfakes are most often discussed as a threat in the political realm, because of their potential to sow misinformation and fake news. Sigal Samuel, Vox, "A guy made a deepfake app to turn photos of women into nudes. It didn’t go well.," 27 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Ben Sayles, a senior director at real estate firm JLL, which is working with Mt. Auburn on the sale, said the site could attract a wide range of developers, and various potential uses. Tim Logan, BostonGlobe.com, "Mt. Auburn Cemetery to sell six acres in Watertown," 2 July 2019 Large-scale screening tests to evaluate thousands of drug candidates for therapeutic potential have revealed several that inhibit c-Myc, and some are moving toward clinical development. Elizabeth O'day, Scientific American, "A Special Class of Proteins Is Promising Targets for Drugs for Cancer and Alzheimer’s," 1 July 2019 Optimists say that plans to cut red tape and increase public investment will lift Russia’s GDP growth potential. The Economist, "Russia is heaven for bondholders and hell for stockpickers," 29 June 2019 Hayes established himself as an unlikely lottery pick after flashing some fascinating potential with his soaring slams and mean blocks. Nick Moyle, ExpressNews.com, "Texas product Jaxson Hayes will be key part of new-look Pelicans," 26 June 2019 Many scouts like Langford’s NBA potential as his physical skills and athleticism should transition well to the next level. Roy Parry, orlandosentinel.com, "Magic enter NBA draft with options, optimism they can find value outside lottery," 19 June 2019 Transit officials nationwide are getting excited about loyalty programs’ potential. David Zipper, WIRED, "Public Transit Agencies Think Rewards Programs Can Bring Back Riders," 7 July 2019 Russell Westbrook and his agent, Thad Foucher, have begun exploring potential next steps for Westbrook's career with Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Saturday. Alaa Abdeldaiem, SI.com, "Report: Russell Westbrook, Thunder Exploring Trade Possibilities," 6 July 2019 At a time when the partisan gulf in this country is huge, maybe, just maybe, there’s potential for a bit more common ground on some issues between young Democrats and Republicans than there is between the parties’ respective old-timers. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Young voters seem more engaged as 2020 election approaches," 5 July 2019

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.

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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

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Statistics for potential

Last Updated

9 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for potential

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

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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 How to pronounce potential (audio) \

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 How to pronounce potential (audio) \

Medical Definition of potential

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: existing in possibility : capable of development into actuality

Other Words from potential

potentially \ -​ˈtench-​(ə-​)lē How to pronounce potentially (audio) \ 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

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Comments on potential

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