tangent
nounDefinition 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 flatended metal pin at the inner end of a clavichord key that strikes the string to produce the tone
tangent
adjectiveDefinition 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
Keep scrolling for more
Keep scrolling for more
Keep scrolling for more
Keep scrolling for more
Test Your Vocabulary
The Exceptions Quiz III

 Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Test your knowledge  and maybe learn something along the way.
TAKE THE QUIZTest Your Knowledge  and learn some interesting things along the way.
TAKE THE QUIZLove words? Need even more definitions?
MerriamWebster unabridged
Words at Play
Ask the Editors
Word Games
Share tangent
Resources for tangent