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

All of this lunar news follows several weeks of speculation about Blue Origin’s potential moon exploration, spurred by a mysterious tweet in April showing a photo of a ship belonging to legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "Blue Origin Reveals the Blue Moon Lunar Lander," 9 May 2019 The goal is to help potential partners and customers develop Project Athena notebooks. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Intel unveils Project Athena Open Labs to develop next-gen thin, light, always-connected laptops," 7 May 2019 Beyond serving as a source of creative inspiration for the designer and any colleagues who work out of the space, many times, their office is the first impression a potential client might receive of their capabilities. Monique Valeris, ELLE Decor, "Office Envy: See Where Two Top Designers Bring Their Big Ideas to Life," 3 May 2019 Also, keeping track of your pup's health status and potential issues could save you tons of money and hospital visits in the future with the information the tests provide. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "Dog DNA Tests Are Selling Fast on Amazon—Here’s How They Can Help Your Pup," 26 Apr. 2019 The scene calls back to the movie while simultaneously setting up the potential conflict for a future Aquaman sequel, should one get made. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Aquaman’s post-credits scene, explained," 21 Dec. 2018 But don’t mistake a lack of previous productivity for an absence of potential. Mike Vorel, The Seattle Times, "Washington opens spring football this week. These are the top story lines to watch.," 1 Apr. 2019 Some of the execs attending were eager to invest and wanted better access to potential deals. Jo Piazza, Marie Claire, "Hatched at Twitter," 12 Feb. 2019 Saudi officials are likely to view the large investor interest as a positive bellwether for the oil giant’s potential... Avantika Chilkoti, WSJ, "Saudi Aramco Raises $12 Billion in Debut Bond Sale," 9 Apr. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Given that more than 12 million children in the U.S. face hunger every day, but the country currently wastes upwards of 30% of its food supply, these innovative programs have the potential to do a whole lot of good. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "A School Is Turning Its Leftover Cafeteria Food Into Frozen Take-Home Meals for Kids," 5 Apr. 2019 At the same conference, Ohio Lieutenant Governor-Elect Jon Husted spoke on the potential of using blockchain as a means for citizens to communicate with government as part of the InnovateOhio government modernization initiative. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Ohio Congressman: We can fund border wall with “WallCoin”," 13 Dec. 2018 The plan also has the potential to dramatically reshape the area around Union Station and west of Bushnell Park, now a desolate jumble of concrete highway support columns and ramps. Kenneth R. Gosselin, Courant Community, "Hartford's Union Station May Be Used By CTfastrak Under Redevelopment Plan," 9 July 2018 Some estimates suggest the practice has the potential to lower emissions by as much as 40 to 80 percent compared with portland cement, White said. Chelsea Harvey, Scientific American, "Cement Producers Are Developing a Plan to Reduce CO2 Emissions," 9 July 2018 Even doctors and psychiatrists who are the most excited about the therapeutic potential of psychedelics agree that self-medicating is a dangerous prospect. Allure, "Your Guide to Microdosing for Anxiety and Depression," 19 Apr. 2019 The marketing potential of Wow Air's rock-bottom rates certainly can't be denied. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Are the Discount Airlines Doomed?," 29 Mar. 2019 More than 8 million tourists flooded the South Korean capital last tax season alone, likely excited for the endlessly instagrammable potential of the modern city. Sara Rodrigues, House Beautiful, "The 10 Best Vacations You Can Take With Your Tax Refund," 18 Mar. 2019 And know that, as with all drugs, there is a potential for some unpleasant side effects with cannabis. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "How Does Cannabis Actually Affect Sex?," 25 Mar. 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

14 May 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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