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

Diego Della Valle bought the heritage brand, sleepy but ripe with potential, in 2007. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "A Full-Circle Moment for the House of Schiaparelli and Bergdorf Goodman," 15 Oct. 2018 How long until eyelashes will become representative of something other than their potential for inspiring thirst? Sable Yong, Allure, "Why Are Mascara Names So Damn Thirsty?," 25 Sep. 2018 Getty ImagesChris Jackson There are also some potential health risks associated with traveling while pregnant. Marie Claire, "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Might Delay Starting a Family for a Practical and Obvious Reason," 12 Aug. 2018 As a result, all potential for judgement is removed from the very beginning of Mamma Mia, imbuing the movies with a sense of freedom. Ella Donald, Glamour, "The Surprising Sex Positivity of Mamma Mia," 23 July 2018 But Israel has drawn the line at taking in refugees, citing potential security risks and fearing that such a move could set a precedent for letting in refugees from future conflicts on its border. Dina Kraft, The Christian Science Monitor, "Syrian civil war, on Israel's doorstep, brings swirl of changing attitudes," 11 July 2018 Add it up, and there’s lot of potential, and lots of unknown, which should make the fall fun to watch. Albert Breer, SI.com, "Which Quarterbacks Will Rise to the Top of the 2019 NFL Draft Class?," 10 July 2018 Is there potential in mining asteroids for raw materials? NBC News, "Stopping 'Armageddon': This former astronaut is on a mission to save Earth from deadly asteroids," 10 July 2018 These words have gained new relevance amid the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with President Trump's 2016 campaign. Andrew O'reilly, Fox News, "Kavanaugh's support for shielding sitting presidents from prosecution riles Dems," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Sam Abell’s photographs of Cindy Crawford for Acne Studios have the potential to stop you dead in your tracks. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "The American West Has Never Looked Better Than in Acne Studios’s New Images of Cindy Crawford," 25 Sep. 2018 Nevertheless, Cochran is confident about the potential that bone-in fried chicken brings. Janine Puhak, Fox News, "Cracker Barrel adding bone-in fried chicken to menu," 19 Sep. 2018 Blockchain tech has the potential to prevent fraud, save time and money with efficiency, and improve tracking of everything from digital currency to insurance claims, patient records and product shipments. Rebecca Lurye, courant.com, "How Seven Stars Cloud Plans To Spend $283M In West Hartford," 14 July 2018 Private companies see big potential in China’s surveillance build-out. Paul Mozur, New York Times, "Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras," 8 July 2018 The program is geared toward girls who might be having discipline trouble in school, but had the potential to do better and be leaders, Calice said. Sarah Freishtat, Aurora Beacon-News, "Aurora mentoring program aims to help girls build leadership," 7 July 2018 Mall saw potential in his new student, and with his encouragement, Sabin created a celebrated brain model of the brain stem of a newborn. Eliza Mcgraw, Smithsonian, "Florence Sabin Pioneered Her Way in Medical Science, Then Made Sure Other Women Could Do the Same," 6 July 2018 Menomonee Park offers a variety of activities beyond what is available for rental, and Lemke sees potential for an entire day of activities, along with the option to camp overnight. Henry J. Morgan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "It's summer; why not take a paddleboard for a spin? They're now available for rent at Menomonee Park, along with bikes and boats," 3 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

12 Nov 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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