tan·​gen·​tial | \ tan-ˈjen(t)-shəl \

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 \ 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 Manafort cases emerged from Mr. Mueller’s probe but are tangential to the Trump campaign, centering instead on Mr. Manafort’s lobbying work in the early 2010s. Julie Bykowicz, WSJ, "Paul Manafort’s Lawyers Discuss Possible Plea Deal to Forestall Second Trial," 12 Sep. 2018 Arthur has the most extended and revelatory arc, and his story bookends the game, which sets up Ollie and Sally’s acts as tangential. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "We Happy Few is a creepy, fascinating game that gets lost in its own ambition," 10 Aug. 2018 Arizona's tangential involvement in international cyber spying isn't a total surprise. Ronald J. Hansen, azcentral, "Arizona servers used by Russian hackers to monitor Democrats, feds say," 13 July 2018 In other words, EO 12333 protects the tangential collection of Americans' data even when Americans aren't specifically targeted—otherwise, it would be forbidden under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Meet the 8 spooky AT&T buildings that almost certainly also serve the NSA," 25 June 2018 In contrast, Iraqi courts have sentenced hundreds of IS suspects to death in swift trials, and even tangential links to the militant group are punished by sentenced of 15 years or life. Sarah El Deeb, Fox News, "Syria's Kurds put IS on trial with focus on reconciliation," 8 May 2018 Catalonia, says Resina, remained a tangential territory of Spain even after its 15th century unification. Kate Keller, Smithsonian, "Beyond the Headlines, Catalan Culture Has a Long History of Vibrancy and Staying Power," 25 June 2018 There’s something to be said for allowing him to face the music, but oftentimes prospects benefit from as much tangential mystery as possible. Jeremy Woo, SI.com, "Draft Dispatch: Combine Standouts, Buzz and Luka Doncic’s Potential Return to Europe," 17 May 2018 But the firm, Columbus Nova, quickly asserted the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, had only a tangential relationship to it, and had not used it as a conduit to pay Cohen. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Did a Russian Oligarch Funnel Money From Russia to Michael Cohen?," 25 May 2018

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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Last Updated

16 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for tangential

The first known use of tangential was in 1630

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English Language Learners Definition of tangential

: 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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More from Merriam-Webster on tangential

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tangential

Nglish: Translation of tangential for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tangential for Arabic Speakers

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