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

His interview answers thoughtful, freewheeling and appealingly tangential. Matt Wake | Mwake@al.com, al.com, "Drivin N Cryin is still going ‘Straight to Hell’," 11 June 2019 The fewer cutaways to tangential topics, interviews and other side features, the better. Phil Rosenthal, chicagotribune.com, "ESPN's Alex Rodriguez admits he's 'still a novice' as a TV analyst. Comedian Jeff Garlin is ready for A-Rod to go away.," 6 June 2019 Trump regularly tries to undercut criticism by finding one tangential thing that might introduce a smidgen of doubt. Philip Bump, Washington Post, "There are bigger issues underlying the anti-FBI 'secret society' conspiracy theory," 25 Jan. 2018 Put in tangential search terms and the world is your oyster. Allison Duncan, WSJ, "The Expert’s Guide to Scoring Décor Deals Online," 14 Feb. 2019 After the coup, Mr. Erdogan accelerated his pursuit of Mr. Gulen’s followers, closing newspapers and shutting businesses run by people with tangential links to the cleric. Aruna Viswanatha, WSJ, "Prosecutors Accuse Turkey of Covert Campaign to Pressure U.S. to Hand Over Cleric," 17 Dec. 2018 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

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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Statistics for tangential

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tangential

The first known use of tangential was in 1630

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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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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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