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
Learn More about tangent

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
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up tangent? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
Writing? Check your grammar now!