lat·​er·​al | \ ˈla-tə-rəl How to pronounce lateral (audio) also ˈla-trəl \

Definition of lateral

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : of or relating to the side a lateral view
2 : situated on, directed toward, or coming from the side the lateral branches of a tree
3 : extending from side to side the lateral axis of an airplane
4 phonetics : produced with passage of breath around the side of a constriction formed with the tongue \l\ is lateral



Definition of lateral (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a branch from the main part (as in an irrigation or electrical system)
2 : a pass in football thrown parallel to the line of scrimmage or in a direction away from the opponent's goal
3 : a lateral speech sound


lateraled; lateraling; laterals

Definition of lateral (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to throw a lateral

Other Words from lateral


laterally adverb

Synonyms for lateral

Synonyms: Adjective

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Lateral shows up in all kinds of contexts. A lateral job change is one that keeps you at about the same job level and salary. A coach might have special drills to improve his players' lateral speed and agility. The British speak of "lateral thinking", thinking that grabs ideas that may not seem to be relevant but turn out to work well—what we might call "thinking outside the box". But we know lateral best from football. A lateral pass is a pass of the ball between teammates that usually goes to the side and slightly backward from the direction in which they're advancing; unlike a forward pass, a lateral may be made from any position, and any number may be made in a single play.

Examples of lateral in a Sentence

Adjective the lateral force of an earthquake from the lateral view you can see how thick the wall really is
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Intermediate runners should focus on more specialized activities, like hill sprints, endurance runs and lateral exercises. Liam Gravvat, USA TODAY, 23 Sep. 2022 For instance, if doing lateral raises to 90 degrees is too much for your shoulders, then modify to, say, 60 degrees. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, 16 Sep. 2022 Both have a pointed toe, a slip-on design, and lateral pull straps that make getting dressed so much easier. Nicol Natale, Peoplemag, 13 Sep. 2022 Wideout Ja'kobi Lane took a lateral pass before finding fellow receiver Taveon Sueing all alone for a 60-yard touchdown right before halftime. Azcentral Sports, The Arizona Republic, 9 Sep. 2022 And there is a touch of perestroika in the way Ukrainians have fought the war with lateral networks, set up by tech-savvy Ukrainians. Thomas Geoghegan, The New Republic, 31 Aug. 2022 With its lateral layout, the home has been conceived as a natural showplace for art and design. Dckaufman, Robb Report, 31 Aug. 2022 The lateral stiffness is second to none at delivering power to the edge. Outside Online, 30 Aug. 2022 Tsing's book is full of exhilarating lateral shifts. The Week Staff, The Week, 29 Aug. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Walsh twice rallied from two-score deficits to beat Benedictine on the road with a trick play, as senior receiver Gabe Gardner took a lateral from quarterback Ryan Kerscher and found Owen Feliciano on a 20-yard TD. Matt Goul, cleveland, 22 Aug. 2022 Blount caught Vigor napping when Ford tossed a lateral to wide receiver Myron Dunklin, who then fired a pass to a wide-open Marlon Miller streaking down the field alone. Darron Patterson, al, 20 Aug. 2022 This entailed drilling vertically and then building a curved section at 5°/100 ft drilled, and finally maintaining a lateral at 65° to the vertical, for about 4,300 feet in an azimuth just south of east (N105E). Ian Palmer, Forbes, 19 May 2022 At the FORGE field laboratory, the length of the lateral will be devoted to testing out new technologies. Ian Palmer, Forbes, 19 May 2022 The accepted explanation has been that the swaying was due to a weird synchronicity between the bridge's lateral (sideways) sway and pedestrians' gaits—an example of emergent collective phenomena. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 20 Dec. 2021 However, Leonard's lateral was deemed to be forward and therefore a penalty. Scott Horner, The Indianapolis Star, 12 Oct. 2021 The Utes also showed great discipline on the play, staying home after Berryhill accepted the initial lateral. Michael Lev, The Arizona Republic, 15 Nov. 2021 At 12:43 of the first quarter, receiver Kendrick Bourne took a lateral from Jones, then threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to fellow receiver Nelson Agholor. Mark Daniels, USA TODAY, 24 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Florida State tried to lateral the ball multiple times, but Clemson eventually picked up a fumble and scored. Christopher Smith, al, 31 Oct. 2021 The vast majority of the time, when a football team tries to lateral its way down the field in desperation, the result benefits the defending the team. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, 12 Sep. 2020 Quarterback Ryan Tannehill connected with Kenny Stills, who tossed the ball to DeVante Parker, who lateraled to Kenyan Drake, who ran 52 yards for the game-winning score, outrunning Rob Gronkowski en route to the end zone. Jim Reineking, USA TODAY, 1 Apr. 2020 Brady recovered and lateraled to Ben Watson, who sent it back to Edelman, who flung it back to Thuney., 31 Dec. 2019 The big guard lateraled to Mohamed Sanu, who shipped it back to White, who fumbled, ending the play., 31 Dec. 2019 Renfrow lateraled to tight end Marcell Ateman, who gained nine more yards. Ryan O’halloran, The Denver Post, 30 Dec. 2019 On the Ducks' final play, with one second left on the clock, Chris Miller throws a 15-yard pass to Kwante Hampton, who laterals to Ladaria Johnson. oregonlive, 25 Nov. 2019 On the 49ers’ next drive, Garoppolo lateraled to wideout Deebo Samuel, who pitched the ball to Sanders, who tossed an off-his-back-foot pass under pressure to all-alone running back Raheem Mostert for a 35-yard touchdown. Eric Branch,, 8 Dec. 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lateral.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of lateral


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1578, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1930, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for lateral

Adjective, Noun, and Verb

Middle English laterale, from Latin lateralis, from later-, latus side

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Time Traveler for lateral

Time Traveler

The first known use of lateral was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near lateral



lateral bud

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Statistics for lateral

Last Updated

27 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Lateral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for lateral


lat·​er·​al | \ ˈla-tə-rəl How to pronounce lateral (audio) \

Kids Definition of lateral

: being on or directed toward the side lateral movement

Other Words from lateral

laterally adverb


lat·​er·​al | \ ˈlat-ə-rəl, ˈla-trəl How to pronounce lateral (audio) \

Medical Definition of lateral

: of or relating to the side especially, of a body part : lying at or extending toward the right or left side : lying away from the median axis of the body the lungs are lateral to the heart the lateral branch of the axillary artery

More from Merriam-Webster on lateral

Nglish: Translation of lateral for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of lateral for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about lateral


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