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 tangentially (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 The ResilNam team estimates that 12,000 people will directly benefit from the new mangroves, with an additional 180,000 people reaping some tangential reward. Jessica Wapner, Quartz, "Vietnamese women are hit harder by climate change—but they’re starting to fight back," 1 Dec. 2019 Many of those arrested had only a tangential connection, if any, to the Communists, including, in Nashua, New Hampshire, a hundred and forty-one Socialists. Adam Hochschild, The New Yorker, "When America Tried to Deport Its Radicals," 4 Nov. 2019 Tencent often invests in companies that can seem tangential to its core businesses of gaming and social media. Jane Li, Quartz, "The “SoftBank of China” has invested in more unicorns than SoftBank," 23 Oct. 2019 As of now, few centered on recent events in Cuyahoga County which have tangential connections at best to opioid abuse. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Drug companies may probe Cuyahoga County Jail problems, mother’s murder of 4-year-old daughter at federal opioid trial," 4 Oct. 2019 For them, Power embodies the contradictions of liberal geopolitics, in which lofty rhetoric is used to justify military action in regions where the United States has at best tangential interests. Daniel Bessner, The New Republic, "The Fog of Intervention," 4 Sep. 2019 Karine Jean-Pierre, a Democratic strategist and senior adviser at MoveOn.org, said Democrats should ignore Trump’s attempts to goad them into debates over tangential social issues on his terms. Anchorage Daily News, "Analysis: Trump dials up culture wars in divisive play for 2020 votes," 13 Aug. 2019 So four days before Trump tweeted that Dorian threatened Alabama, the state appeared to be at little risk of even a tangential hurricane strike. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "“Precious hours were wasted”: Trump’s doctored map affected hurricane forecasters," 6 Sep. 2019 Alright, so at least TE is somewhat in the device and device-tangential space, which can clearly be useful in medicine. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "The Surprising Health Care Companies Changing the World: Brainstorm Health," 19 Aug. 2019

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

28 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Tangential.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tangential. Accessed 21 January 2020.

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More Definitions for tangential


How to pronounce tangential (audio)

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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Comments on tangential

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