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 The sweet pastries posed potential risks because of the raw eggs inside from China and or other Southwest Asian counties that are hosts to the disease, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection release. Chris Mayhew, The Enquirer, "FDA seizes thousands of mooncakes pastries in Cincinnati to thwart diseases," 10 Oct. 2020 But prospective voters still have lingering questions about potential health risks associated with in-person voting, what other options exist, whether polls will be adequately staffed and whether their votes will be secure. Courtney Astolfi, cleveland, "Is in-person voting safe, secure and likely to continue through Election Day? Election Truth," 9 Oct. 2020 The stand-down is necessary for the District to further investigate the full scope of the potential exposure to staff and students. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "Party leads to shutdown of Eagle River High School weekend activities as football team starts quarantine," 9 Oct. 2020 South Korea has issued a recall for more than 25,000 Hyundai Kona Electric crossovers over potential fires. Roberto Baldwin, Car and Driver, "Hyundai Kona Electric Recalled in South Korea and US over Potential Fire Danger," 8 Oct. 2020 Cassava, a restaurant in the Outer Richmond, tried doing outdoor brunch for two weekends but stopped because of potential health risks with too many customers to manage, said Yuka loroi, a co-owner and member of the Recovery Task Force. Roland Li, SFChronicle.com, "S.F. is facing its worst fiscal crisis in decades. Here’s the city’s 41-point plan for recovery," 8 Oct. 2020 Around Bismarck, there is a range of responses to the virus; but people are generally left to make their own choices about the potential risks. Lucy Tompkins, New York Times, "The Virus Surges in North Dakota, Filling Hospitals and Testing Attitudes," 7 Oct. 2020 Lately, they were also often held over the protests of local officials in various states, who viewed them as potential public-health risks. Eric Lach, The New Yorker, "What Trump’s Positive Coronavirus Test Means for the Presidential Campaign," 2 Oct. 2020 Regarding election security, Fontes said his office made several upgrades after conducting several audits that looked at potential security risks within the voting system. Jen Fifield, The Arizona Republic, "County recorder hopeful wants to make running elections 'boring again'; incumbent pushes for voter access," 1 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The goal is not to raise prices for consumers but to ensure that the economy is operating at full potential. Jay Heflin, Washington Examiner, "Inflation slowed in September," 13 Oct. 2020 The clips serves as both a fitting homage to Pace’s dominance and sense of humor 25 years ago and the potential of this Buckeyes offensive line. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Wyatt Davis' pancake special reminds us Ohio State football’s championship drive starts up front: Buckeye Take," 13 Oct. 2020 But, as with any sale, there’s the equally high potential of getting overwhelmed by how much is available at an enticing price. Akili King, Vogue, "The Best Beauty Items on Sale This Amazon Prime Day," 13 Oct. 2020 The fact that Sewell could get away with not playing any games his junior season but still be assured of being a high-end first-round selection is a testament to his talents and potential. oregonlive, "How good is Penei Sewell, really? 3 former Oregon Ducks offensive linemen and an NFL scout examine his potential greatness," 13 Oct. 2020 But the drilling and transport of natural gas results in the leakage of methane, which has 86 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Joseph Krauss, Star Tribune, "Five years on, Israelis see few benefits from major gas deal," 12 Oct. 2020 The potential for Barrett to join a 6-3 conservative majority that could erase the controversial, nearly 50-year-old ruling is expected to be one flashpoint during her Senate confirmation hearings scheduled to start Monday. Kevin Mccoy, USA TODAY, "Amy Barrett's law review articles show how Supreme Court rulings like Roe v. Wade could be challenged," 12 Oct. 2020 Synthetic peptides show enormous potential to be scaled up at low cost to produce robust, bespoke treatments, says Sarel Fleishman of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who was not involved in the study. Zoe Cormier, Scientific American, "Lab-Made ‘Miniproteins’ Could Block the Coronavirus from Infecting Cells," 12 Oct. 2020 And as coronavirus cases climb in the U.S., the pandemic continues to constrain the potential of many businesses. Karen Langley, WSJ, "Investors Are Betting Corporate Earnings Have Turned a Corner," 11 Oct. 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

16 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Potential.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/potential. Accessed 21 Oct. 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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