tan·​gen·​tial | \ tan-ˈjen(t)-shəl How to pronounce tangential (audio) \

Definition of tangential

1a : touching lightly : incidental, peripheral tangential involvement also : of little relevance arguments tangential to the main point
2 : of, relating to, or of the nature of a tangent
3 : acting along or lying in a tangent tangential forces

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Other Words from tangential

tangentially \ tan-​ˈjen(t)-​sh(ə-​)lē How to pronounce tangential (audio) \ adverb

Tangential Has Mathematical Roots

In geometry, a tangent is a straight line that touches a curve at a single point. So we say that someone who starts talking about one thing and gets sidetracked has gone off on a tangent. The new subject is tangential to the first subject—it touches it and moves off in a different direction.

Examples of tangential in a Sentence

Their romance is tangential to the book's main plot.
Recent Examples on the Web As lawyers argue over procedural details in the wrongful death litigation, there have also been a number of tangential suits stemming from the crash, including three that involve photos allegedly taken at the site. USA Today, "Tragedy, then lawsuits: The vast legal fallout of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash," 21 Jan. 2021 For a squeaky-clean outfit such as the Girl Scouts, even a tangential association with Trump is now to be avoided. Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times, "What will become of the Trump brand after he leaves office?," 15 Jan. 2021 That’s not including the additional fees to participate in tangential events like Pepcom (anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000, according to documents reviewed by WIRED). Lauren Goode, Wired, "Virtual CES Was As Surreal As We All Suspected It Would Be," 15 Jan. 2021 The goal of the tangential businesses is to serve the journalism work, which is becoming increasingly hard to finance through traditional revenue models or ads. Sam Dean, Los Angeles Times, "Why buy the Village Voice?," 4 Jan. 2021 These countries incubated movements that are well represented in the exhibition but tangential to its Russian focus—Futurism, Dada, the Bauhaus. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "What Are Artists For?," 21 Dec. 2020 But there are tangential areas where the impact of the chip could be similarly massive. Washington Post, "Brain-controlled gaming exists, though ethical questions loom over the tech," 16 Dec. 2020 Many of them long ago left their hometown for personal or professional reasons; their ties to the local community of musicians is tangential at best. Keith Spera, NOLA.com, "Trombonist Craig Klein relishes New Orleans Nightcrawlers' Grammy nomination, his first in 40 years," 2 Dec. 2020 The investigation has tangential connections -- including apparently the use of the same undercover agents with the same cover story -- to another case that led to the arrest in July of then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican. Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland, "Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld arrested on federal charges," 19 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tangential.' 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 tangential

1630, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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Time Traveler for tangential

Time Traveler

The first known use of tangential was in 1630

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Statistics for tangential

Last Updated

13 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tangential.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tangential. Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for tangential



English Language Learners Definition of tangential

formal : slightly or indirectly related to something : not closely connected to something
geometry : relating to a tangent : in or along a tangent

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