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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Synonyms & Antonyms for potential

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

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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 Open houses, which are one of the best ways to interest potential buyers, were put on hold to reduce the spread of the deadly virus. oregonlive, "Oregon homes on the market: Open houses are back with coronavirus safety precautions," 1 Aug. 2020 JetBlue will become the first US airline to test an ultraviolet cleaning system, as the carrier and other businesses boost their efforts to protect customers against potential exposure to the novel coronavirus. BostonGlobe.com, "For Boeing, a rough quarterly report," 29 July 2020 Those angled bays mean that every unit has at least one corner window — all the better to nab bay views that might lure potential buyers. John King, SFChronicle.com, "Twisty white Mira tower is dazzling on the skyline, but less so on the ground," 12 July 2020 Penney’s attorney Joshua Sussberg of Kirkland & Ellis said there has been progress in negotiations, not only with its lenders but also with potential buyers of Penney’s retail business and prospective investors in the REIT. Maria Halkias, Dallas News, "J.C. Penney asks bankruptcy court for more time to avoid an ‘outcome no one wants'," 8 July 2020 One key factor keeping the market afloat has been continuing high enthusiasm for metro Phoenix properties in general from potential buyers across the nation. Russ Wiles, The Arizona Republic, "How commercial real estate in metro Phoenix is faring during COVID-19 pandemic," 4 July 2020 The chain, owned by private-equity firm Apollo Global Management Inc., has drawn interest from potential buyers including New York grocery magnate John Catsimatidis, some of the people said. ... Soma Biswas And Heather Haddon, WSJ, "Potential Buyers Are Circling Chuck E. Cheese, Widening Its Options," 19 June 2020 In early spring, builders pumped the brakes as potential buyers hunkered down, said Ken Glass, vice president of sales and marketing for Chesmar Homes’ San Antonio division. Madison Iszler, ExpressNews.com, "‘Cautious optimism’ as San Antonio home-building activity picks up," 18 June 2020 Players expressed concerns over potential COVID-19 testing delays and protocols not yet settled between the NFL and NFL Players Association. Jori Epstein, USA TODAY, "Inside the NFL offensive linemen summit, where players prepare for a season of uncertainty," 14 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Some Miami-Dade County hurricane shelters are on standby, with the potential to provide separate quarters for those who are currently infected. CBS News, "Hurricane Isaias heads toward Florida's coast as state battles coronavirus surge," 1 Aug. 2020 The ability to manufacture a majority opinion, or create a fake-commenter arms race—with minimal potential for detection—would enable sophisticated, extensive influence campaigns. Renee Diresta, Wired, "AI-Generated Text Is the Scariest Deepfake of All," 31 July 2020 Wednesday afternoon is that an Irish team with the potential to be the best of coach Brian Kelly’s 11 to date will have a path to prove it. Eric Hansen, The Indianapolis Star, "Notre Dame football has high ceiling, clear path to prove it with new ACC schedule," 31 July 2020 One way to look at schedules for teams of the Beavers’ class – average on paper but with potential to breakthrough – is to add up the number of highly-beatable opponents on paper. oregonlive, "Taking a dive into Oregon State’s conference-only 2020 football schedule possibilities: Analysis," 13 July 2020 Violators face a warning upon the first offense, with the potential of fines for subsequent violations. al, "‘We saw how things were going’: How one small Alabama city became a leader in mandating masks," 12 July 2020 It’s a heartbreaking deal with unlimited potential. Washington Post, "‘Hamilton’ isn’t just an artistic achievement — it’s also a moment of Puerto Rican pride," 3 July 2020 Residents in more than 20 states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic face threats of thunderstorms this weekend, with a potential of severe storms, hail, damaging winds and tornadoes in some regions, forecasters say. Khrysgiana Pineda, USA TODAY, "Residents in over 20 states may get severe weather this weekend," 27 June 2020 Counsell said at the very least the Brewers will prepare with a series of intrasquad games with the potential for a few games against regionally close teams like the Cubs or Chicago White Sox, although that is yet to be finalized. Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "‘Everybody’s excited’: COVID-19 will present challenges, yes, but baseball’s return is only a week away," 26 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for potential

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for potential

Last Updated

5 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Potential.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/potential. Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for potential

potential

adjective
How to pronounce potential (audio)

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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