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

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

Also uncertain is the impact the first strike against GM since 2007 will have on potential buyers of GM products. NBC News, "How the GM strike could affect your next car purchase," 16 Sep. 2019 While struggling at times with accuracy, both has shown flashes of potential as a passer. Cameron Teague Robinson, The Courier-Journal, "Will Jawon Pass or Malik Cunningham start for Louisville football vs. Florida State?," 16 Sep. 2019 But because of its location near Columbia University, where day-to-day traffic is relatively minor, the list of potential buyers for the entire garage was small. New York Times, "Private Parking Goes Deluxe," 13 Sep. 2019 The moves aim to give potential investors a check on Neumann's control of the company and address some of the most unusual dealings between founder and firm. oregonlive, "WeWork will try to IPO with revamped governance," 13 Sep. 2019 Certainly Neumann’s recent decision to cash out more than $700 million of his WeWork shares ahead of the IPO did little to boost the confidence of potential investors. Sarah Todd, Quartz at Work, "WeWork’s new board member has a history of reforming sexist cultures," 6 Sep. 2019 September, on the other hand, is full of potential. Amanda Shapiro, Bon Appétit, "It's Good to Be Back," 5 Sep. 2019 But being cagey about price frustrates potential buyers, said Marcus Sheridan, founder of Sales Lion, one of the most successful digital sales and marketing agencies in the United States. Mary Kilpatrick, cleveland.com, "Why companies should list their prices online: Content Marketing World," 5 Sep. 2019 The Chinese startup, best-known for facial recognition, touts its government dealings, including locking down public housing to curb subletting, as a selling point to potential investors. Wired, "Behind the Rise of China's Facial-Recognition Giants," 3 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Also, there is a potential for both permanent and temporary impacts to wetlands associated with erosion, sedimentation, disturbance of vegetation and other factors, the department found. Jesse Leavenworth, courant.com, "Manchester subdivision approved," 17 Sep. 2019 Overall, there is some potential for this to get worse, but for many motorists (seeing posts on social media), there is no reason to run out to fill up. Sarah Brookbank, Cincinnati.com, "Gas prices in Greater Cincinnati could spike after Saudi Arabia oil attack," 16 Sep. 2019 There is the potential to have a feature that can triangulate gun shot sounds to determine location. Elizabeth Marie Himchak, Pomerado News, "Concerns raised over City of San Diego’s Smart Streetlights program," 11 Sep. 2019 The divided-government gridlock that has pervaded all year is hardening as lawmakers turn their focus to their re-election prospects in 2020, but there are three areas where there is potential for action: guns, trade and drug prices. Fortune, "Congress Is Back. Here’s What’s on Its To-Do List," 9 Sep. 2019 If a product that tastes like the real thing can be debuted at a similar price point, there's the potential for big business. Laura Reiley, Anchorage Daily News, "Tyson Foods launches alt-shrimp made from plants - and it could be jumbo," 6 Sep. 2019 If a product that tastes like the real thing can be debuted at a similar price point, there's the potential for big business. al, "Tyson launching plant-based shrimp alternative," 5 Sep. 2019 There is also the potential for minor storm surge/inundation in spots, particularly along Nantucket Harbor, on Saturday morning, forecasters said. Jaclyn Reiss, BostonGlobe.com, "Maps: How Dorian could impact Massachusetts this weekend," 5 Sep. 2019 WR Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals Kirk is a potential for lightning in a bottle Week 1 against the Detroit Lions. Mark Deming, SI.com, "Fantasy Football Week 1 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em," 5 Sep. 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

15 Oct 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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