potential energy


: the energy that a piece of matter has because of its position or nature or because of the arrangement of parts

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web That would increase its gravitational potential energy, instead of moving it downwards and decreasing its potential. WIRED, 24 Mar. 2023 This energy, known scientifically as convective available potential energy, or CAPE, is a measure of how many joules per kilogram are in a column of the atmosphere — in other words, how much energy the atmosphere has available to convert into thunderstorms. Gerry Díaz, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Mar. 2023 There might be kinetic energy if the whole system is moving, and there might be potential energy too (the energy stored in a system as a result of its position). Popular Mechanics, 17 Mar. 2023 Building off their work, Hermann von Helmholtz’s (1821–1894) constructed a mathematical theory for energy conservation that included kinetic energy, potential energy, and heat, along with various forms such as electrical, magnetic, and chemical. Scott Bembenek, Discover Magazine, 7 June 2017 Using regenerative braking, these mines would transform the sand’s potential energy into actual energy, and the bigger the mine, the bigger the battery. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, 23 Jan. 2023 More weight means more potential energy to push the car down the slope. Bradley Ford, Popular Mechanics, 12 Jan. 2023 Many countries, particularly in Europe, have taken steps to address potential energy shortages because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Chris Mueller, USA TODAY, 16 Dec. 2022 The answer may lie in a deeper understanding of the energy fields that permeate seemingly empty space (or, from a different perspective, in the relationship between the actual and potential energy of the cosmos). Corey S Powell, Discover Magazine, 14 Mar. 2014 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'potential energy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1853, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of potential energy was in 1853

Dictionary Entries Near potential energy

Cite this Entry

“Potential energy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/potential%20energy. Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition

potential energy

: the amount of energy a thing (as a weight raised to a height or a coiled spring) has because of its position or because of the arrangement of its parts

Medical Definition

potential energy

: the energy that a piece of matter has because of its position or because of the arrangement of parts

More from Merriam-Webster on potential energy

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!