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See also: Potential



From Late Latin potentialis, from Latin potentia (power), from potens (powerful). By surface analysis, potent +‎ -ial.


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /pəˈtɛnʃəl/
  • (US) IPA(key): /po(ʊ)ˈtɛnʃəl/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: po‧ten‧tial


potential (countable and uncountable, plural potentials)

  1. A currently unrealized ability (with the most common adposition being to).
    Even from a young age it was clear that she had the potential to become a great musician.
    • 1990, The Hunt for Red October, →OCLC:
      Comrades, our own fleet doesn't know our full potential. They will do everything possible to test us, but they will only test their own embarrassment.
    • 2022 December 31, Sarah Andersen, “The Alt-Right Manipulated My Comic. Then A.I. Claimed It.”, in The New York Times[1]:
      With some technical improvement, I could see how the process of imitating my work would soon become fast and streamlined, and the many dark potentials bubbled to the forefront of my mind.
  2. (physics) The gravitational potential: the radial (irrotational, static) component of a gravitational field, also known as the Newtonian potential or the gravitoelectric field.
  3. (physics) The work (energy) required to move a reference particle from a reference location to a specified location in the presence of a force field, for example to bring a unit positive electric charge from an infinite distance to a specified point against an electric field.
  4. (grammar) A verbal construction or form stating something is possible or probable.



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potential (not comparable)

  1. Existing in possibility, not in actuality.
    Synonyms: noumenal, spiritual, virtual
    Antonyms: actual, phenomenal, real
    • 1858, Thomas Carlyle, Chartism, Chapman & Hall, page 229:
      The heroic man,—and is not every man, God be thanked, a potential hero?—has to do so, in all times and circumstances.
  2. (archaic) Being potent; endowed with energy adequate to a result
    Synonyms: efficacious, influential
    • 1603, William Shakespeare, Othello:
      And hath, in his effect, a voice potential
  3. (physics) A potential field is an irrotational (static) field.
    • 1997, Physics-Uspekhi, volume 40, numbers 1-6, American Institute of Physics, page 39:
      From Maxwell equations (6.20) it follows that the electric field is potential: E(r) = −gradφ(r).
  4. (physics) A potential flow is an irrotational flow.
    • 2009, Grigory E. Volovik, The Universe in a Helium Droplet[2], Oxford University Press, page 60:
      The non-viscous flow of the vacuum should be potential (irrotational).
  5. (grammar) Referring to a verbal construction of form stating something is possible or probable.

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potential c

  1. potential (currently unrealized ability)
  2. (physics) potential


Declension of potential 
Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Nominative potential potentialen potentialer potentialerna
Genitive potentials potentialens potentialers potentialernas

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