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.
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.