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

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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

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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

Depending what participants choose, a Whole30 plan has potential to be high-fat and high-cholesterol, too. Katie Parsons, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Whole30 diet is all the rage: What you need to know," 13 July 2018 These, however, are the viruses that have the most potential to threaten human populations. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "A Never-Before-Seen Virus Has Been Detected in Myanmar’s Bats," 11 July 2018 The potential for rising water and the dwindling oxygen levels added to the urgency of getting the team out. Author: Tassanee Vejpongsa, Kaweewit Kaewjinda, Anchorage Daily News, "4 rescued from Thai cave in risky operation; 9 remain inside," 9 July 2018 The potential for rising water and the dwindling oxygen levels added to the urgency of getting the team out. Tassanee Vejpongsa And Kaweewit Kaewjinda, Houston Chronicle, "4 rescued from Thai cave in risky operation; 9 remain inside," 9 July 2018 Lest you be put off by the potential for noisy trains, not to worry—steel foils that wrap around the home create an acoustic shell to protect its interior from noise up above. Alex Bazeley, Curbed, "Sculptural steel home built into a 19th-century railway bridge wants $1.4M," 9 July 2018 Once the Minor Planet Center confirmed Kowalski’s discovery had the potential for impact, the data had to be confirmed by the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "For Just 2nd Time Ever, Meteor Hunters Recover Chunks of Rock They Tracked From Space," 9 July 2018 And for a Royals season that was circling the drain already, perhaps squeezing some value out of Hammel had the potential to turn into a minor victory in a forgotten season. Jesse Newell, kansascity, "Why Hammel's struggles — including in a 10-5 loss — come at a bad time for the Royals," 6 July 2018 Theoretically, this high-energy light has the potential to cause damage to certain eye tissues, says Khan. Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, "The Scary Way Blue Light From Your Phone Can Affect Your Eyes and Vision," 6 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

There is definitely something to work with in Graham’s potential. Rick Bonnell, charlotteobserver, "Why 'simple' equals special in the new Charlotte Hornets lexicon," 8 July 2018 Despite never meeting XXXTentacion, 50 Cent believed in his potential as a superstar artist. Heran Mamo, Billboard, "6 Things We Learned From 50 Cent's Interview With DJ Whoo Kid," 5 July 2018 The smaller bedroom that overlooks the front of the house is furnished with a desk to show its in-home office potential. Tony Bacewicz, courant.com, "West River Farms, East Windsor," 28 June 2018 Worse, the situations in which these kids were living were making them lose faith in their own potential. Shaun Goodwin, kansascity, "She's a Kansas City cop using soccer to help kids realize their potential," 26 June 2018 What made this rule so radical, at least in its potential? Longreads, "The Bungled Bank Robbery That Ended in a Landmark Legal Ruling," 26 June 2018 Matty Squarzoni is another believer in the potential of artificial intelligence in addressing school violence. Randy Rieland, Smithsonian, "Can Artificial Intelligence Help Stop School Shootings?," 22 June 2018 Brexit is the main issue facing May. Trump also raised questions about the potential for a US trade deal with Britain because of the way May was handling Brexit. Martin Finucane, BostonGlobe.com, "Believe it or not, President Trump has been in Europe a little over 72 hours," 13 July 2018 But even those stories contained tacit hints about the potential for an Ocasio-Cortez victory. Danielle Tcholakian, Longreads, "An Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Reading List," 10 July 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.

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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

17 Sep 2018

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 \

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

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Comments on potential

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