Definition of tangent
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 adjacentb : 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
Origin and Etymology of tangent
New Latin tangent, tangens, from linea tangens tangent line
First Known Use: 1594
Other Mathematics and Statistics Terms
tangent
Definition of tangent
1a : meeting a curve or surface in a single point if a sufficiently small interval is considered straight line tangent to a curveb (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
Examples of tangent in a Sentence
in the middle of her description of her dog's symptoms, she went off on a tangent about its cute behavior
Origin and Etymology of tangent
Latin tangent, tangens, present participle of tangere to touch; perhaps akin to Old English thaccian to touch gently, stroke
First Known Use: 1594
Other Mathematics and Statistics Terms
TANGENT Defined for English Language Learners
tangent
Definition of tangent for English Language Learners

geometry : a line that touches a sphere or circle at only one point
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See words that rhyme with tangent Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tangent Spanish Central: Translation of tangent Nglish: Translation of tangent for Spanish speakers Britannica English: Translation of tangent for Arabic speakers Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tangent
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