tangent

noun
tan·​gent | \ ˈtan-jənt How to pronounce tangent (audio) \

Definition of tangent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an abrupt change of course : digression the speaker went off on a tangent
2a : the trigonometric function that for an acute angle is the ratio between the leg opposite to the angle when it is considered part of a right triangle and the leg adjacent
b : a trigonometric function that is equal to the sine divided by the cosine for all real numbers θ for which the cosine is not equal to zero and is exactly equal to the tangent of an angle of measure θ in radians
3 : a line that is tangent specifically : a straight line that is the limiting position of a secant of a curve through a fixed point and a variable point on the curve as the variable point approaches the fixed point
4 : a small upright flat-ended metal pin at the inner end of a clavichord key that strikes the string to produce the tone

tangent

adjective

Definition of tangent (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : meeting a curve or surface in a single point if a sufficiently small interval is considered straight line tangent to a curve
b(1) : having a common tangent line at a point tangent curves
(2) : having a common tangent plane at a point tangent surfaces
2 : diverging from an original purpose or course : irrelevant tangent remarks

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Synonyms for tangent

Synonyms: Noun

aside, digression, divagation, excursion

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Examples of tangent in a Sentence

Noun

in the middle of her description of her dog's symptoms, she went off on a tangent about its cute behavior

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Create a set agenda and do not allow the team to go off on tangents. Tom Cooney And Crystal Faulkner, Cincinnati.com, "BusinessWise: Healthy conflict can improve meeting engagement in workplace," 27 June 2019 Walton and Benetti’s ESPN work together in November at college basketball’s Maui Invitational — full of weird and wacky tangents — was utterly riveting TV. Phil Rosenthal, chicagotribune.com, "Jason Benetti will call a White Sox game with ‘the neural fiesta that is Bill Walton’ on Aug. 16," 9 Aug. 2019 Even heaped with tangents, the material just doesn’t prove worthy. Hank Stuever, Houston Chronicle, "Review: A convoluted ‘Stranger Things’ follows its primal ’80s urges to one monster of a mall," 6 July 2019 Even heaped with tangents, the material just doesn’t prove worthy. Hank Stuever, Houston Chronicle, "Review: A convoluted ‘Stranger Things’ follows its primal ’80s urges to one monster of a mall," 6 July 2019 Even heaped with tangents, the material just doesn’t prove worthy. Hank Stuever, Washington Post, "A convoluted ‘Stranger Things’ follows its primal ’80s urges to one monster of a mall," 3 July 2019 But as Gadsby develops her digressions, and bores laserlike along her tangents, a large and extraordinarily intricate design begins to reveal itself. James Parker, The Atlantic, "Hannah Gadsby’s Genius Follow-Up to Nanette," 25 June 2019 When the four left The Parlor and reconvened to open their own Italian restaurant, they were sucked into an Asian-themed tangent, launching Clever Koi and — after the departure of Porter and Absolor — the sneaky and surprising Across The Pond. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "Fellow Osteria in Scottsdale is too interesting to ignore but too inconsistent to embrace," 16 July 2019 Now our increasingly multipolar world has loosened up brand-new tangents of human yearning. Paul Salopek, The New Yorker, "A Twenty-Four-Thousand-Mile Walk Across Human History," 17 June 2019

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

Noun

1594, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Adjective

1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for tangent

Noun

New Latin tangent-, tangens, from linea tangens tangent line

Adjective

Latin tangent-, tangens, present participle of tangere to touch; perhaps akin to Old English thaccian to touch gently, stroke

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Statistics for tangent

Last Updated

5 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tangent

The first known use of tangent was in 1594

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More Definitions for tangent

tangent

noun

English Language Learners Definition of tangent

geometry : a line that touches a sphere or circle at only one point

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Comments on tangent

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