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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Other Words from potential

Adjective

potentially \ pə-​ˈten(t)-​sh(ə-​)lē How to pronounce potentially (audio) \ 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

Dunleavy warned of a change of venue if lawmakers didn’t complete their business during that session, suggesting as a potential site the Matanuska-Susitna region, where Wasilla is nestled about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Anchorage. Washington Post, "New special session venue has some Alaska lawmakers wary," 20 June 2019 That dream collapsed over the winter, as the financial details never came together, followed by the team telling St. Petersburg that it was done looking at other potential sites in the area. Jon Tayler, SI.com, "Split-Season Push in Montreal Is the Rays' Latest Desperate Attempt for a New Stadium," 20 June 2019 Jones routinely stood out on his senior tape as a well-coached, fluid front-side tackle who showed great footwork, a powerful lower body drive and the potential to possibly be a multi-tool player in college. Nicholas Baumgardner, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football: OL Trente Jones could be versatile, starter one day," 20 June 2019 Heading into the fifth season, the cast and crew initially expected there to be a sixth, but when cancellation news hit during production, story lines that had the potential to run for years suddenly had to be wrapped up in half a season. Ruth Kinane, EW.com, "Angel cast and creators reunite for 20th anniversary of beloved vampire drama series," 20 June 2019 Notwithstanding the guff, the commercial potential is indeed significant—as are the potential problems. The Economist, "Facebook wants to create a worldwide digital currency," 20 June 2019 Four San Francisco supervisors proposed a ballot measure Tuesday to speed up construction of affordable and teacher housing and increase the number of potential building sites. Roland Li, SFChronicle.com, "SF supervisors propose ballot measure for affordable and teacher housing," 19 June 2019 Although most of Dallas-Fort Worth stayed dry Wednesday afternoon, the potential for severe storms lingered into the night. Jesus Jimenez, Dallas News, "Dallas-Fort Worth under tornado watch Wednesday evening, with damaging winds, hail possible," 19 June 2019 Some of Jupiter’s moons have been studied for the potential to harbor life. National Geographic, "Countdown to a new era inSpace," 17 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Has the fourth potential candidate yet to trod on 55th Street? San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Kawhi looks like third on SDSU’s Mt. Rushmore, but who’s fourth?," 23 June 2019 The National Weather Service in Birmingham thinks most of central Alabama has the potential to see damaging winds up to 60 mph and quarter size hail today. Leigh Morgan, al.com, "Another round of severe storms possible today in Alabama," 22 June 2019 Frankie Montas, the potential All-Star Maybe labeling Montas as a potential All-Star is doing his performance this season a disservice. Shayna Rubin, The Mercury News, "3 takeaways from A’s roller-coaster walk-off win capped by Matt Chapman home run," 21 June 2019 But several white potential jurors were also familiar with players in the trial and faced less questioning and no challenge. S.m. | New York, The Economist, "A prosecutor excluded black jurors from a murder trial," 21 June 2019 The redevelopment aims to revitalize a street long seen as having unfulfilled potential but unable to achieve it. Kenneth R. Gosselin, courant.com, "$100M plan to redevelop Hartford’s Pratt Street would add apartments, retail and dining in downtown," 20 June 2019 However, until or unless Rossi re-ups with Andretti Autosport, his potential free agent status appears to be the biggest domino on the table as Silly Season hits high gear. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "As Alex Rossi, Andretti chases IndyCar championship, his status holds key to Silly Season," 19 June 2019 The crusts also help fertilize the soil and take nitrogen out of the atmosphere, Blankinship said, and there’s a potential to cultivate them. AZCentral.com, "Summer storms are a spectacle, but the dust in them is hazardous to your health," 18 June 2019 Emily Martin of the National Women's Law Center noted that Harris' Equal Pay Plan includes pay transparency, which allows for greater potential to close the gender and race pay gap. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Trump campaign confident as reelection bid kicks into gear," 18 June 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

25 Jun 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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