Definition of tangent
(Entry 1 of 2)
1
: an abrupt change of course : digression
the speaker went off on a tangent
2a
: the trigonometric function that for an acute angle is the ratio between the leg opposite to the angle when it is considered part of a right triangle and the leg adjacent
b
: a trigonometric function that is equal to the sine divided by the cosine for all real numbers θ for which the cosine is not equal to zero and is exactly equal to the tangent of an angle of measure θ in radians
3
: a line that is tangent
specifically
: a straight line that is the limiting position of a secant of a curve through a fixed point and a variable point on the curve as the variable point approaches the fixed point
4
: a small upright flatended metal pin at the inner end of a clavichord key that strikes the string to produce the tone
tangent
adjectiveDefinition of tangent (Entry 2 of 2)
1a
: meeting a curve or surface in a single point if a sufficiently small interval is considered
straight line tangent to a curve
b(1)
: having a common tangent line at a point
tangent curves
(2)
: having a common tangent plane at a point
tangent surfaces
2
: diverging from an original purpose or course : irrelevant
tangent remarks
Keep scrolling for more
Keep scrolling for more
Keep scrolling for more
Test Your Vocabulary
Return of Name that Color!

 Name that color:
Test your visual vocabulary with our 10question challenge!
TAKE THE QUIZAnagram puzzles meet word search.
TAKE THE QUIZLove words? Need even more definitions?
MerriamWebster unabridged
Words at Play
Ask the Editors
Word Games

Return of Name that Color!
Additional colors! More obscure than before!
Take the quiz 
Name that Thing: Dog Breeds
Can you correctly identify these breeds?
Take the quiz 
Name That Thing
Test your visual vocabulary with our 10question ...
Take the quiz 
SCRABBLE® Sprint
SCRABBLE® fans, sharpen your skills!
Play the game
Share tangent
Time Traveler for tangent
The first known use of tangent was in 1594
See more words from the same year