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From Late Latin potentialis, from Latin potentia (power), from potens (powerful); synchronically analyzable as potent +‎ -ial.


  • IPA(key): /pəˈtɛnʃəl/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: po‧ten‧tial


potential (plural potentials)

  1. 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.
  2. (physics) The gravitational potential is the radial (irrotational, static) component of a gravitational field, also known as the Newtonian potential or the gravitoelectric field.[1][2][3]
  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.

Related terms[edit]



potential (not comparable)

  1. Existing in possibility, not in actuality.
    The heroic man,—and is not every man, God be thanked, a potential hero?—has to do so, in all times and circumstances.[5]
  2. (archaic) Being potent; endowed with energy adequate to a result; efficacious; influential.
    And hath, in his effect, a voice potential[6]
  3. (physics) A potential field is an irrotational (static) field.
    From Maxwell equations (6.20) it follows that the electric field is potential: E(r) = −gradφ(r).[7]
  4. (physics) A potential flow is an irrotational flow.
    The non-viscous flow of the vacuum should be potential (irrotational).[8]
  5. (grammar) Referring to a verbal construction of form stating something is possible or probable.



  1. ^ Novello, M. ♦ VII Brazilian School of Cosmology and Gravitation, Rio de Janeiro, August 1993 Atlantica Séguier Frontières, 1994, p. 257 ♦ "In general, a system can have both translational and rotational accelerations, however. It follows from Einstein's principle of equivalence that locally—i.e., to the extent that spacetime curvature can be neglected—gravitational effects are the same as inertial effects; therefore, gravitation can be approximately described in terms of gravitoelectric and gravitomagnetic fields corresponding to translational and rotational inertia, respectively. This is the gravitational Larmor theorem, which is very useful in the post-Newtonian approximation to general relativity. The gravitomagnetic field of a massive rotating body is a measure of its absolute rotation."
  2. ^ Thorne, Kip S. ♦ Gravitomagnetism, Jets in Quasars, and the Stanford Gyroscope Experiment From the book "Near Zero: New Frontiers of Physics" (eds. J. D. Fairbank, B. S. Deaver, Jr., C. W. F. Everitt, P. F. Michelson), W. H. Freeman and Company, New York, 1988, pp. 3, 4 (575, 576) ♦ "From our electrodynamical experience we can infer immediately that any rotating spherical body (e.g., the sun or the earth) will be surrounded by a radial gravitoelectric (Newtonian) field g and a dipolar gravitomagnetic field H. The gravitoelectric monopole moment is the body's mass M; the gravitomagnetic dipole moment is its spin angular momentum S."
  3. ^ Grøn, Øyvind; Hervik, Sigbjørn ♦ Einstein's General Theory of Relativity with Modern Applications in Cosmology Springer, 2007, p. 203 ♦ "In the Newtonian theory there will not be any gravitomagnetic effects; the Newtonian potential is the same irrespective of whether or not the body is rotating. Hence the gravitomagnetic field is a purely relativistic effect. The gravitoelectric field is the Newtonian part of the gravitational field, while the gravitomagnetic field is the non-Newtonian part."
  4. ^ Smith, Crosbie; Wise, M. Norton ♦ Energy and Empire: A Biographical Study of Lord Kelvin Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 533 ♦ "Thomson had adopted in 1854 the view that 'the potential energy of gravitation may be in reality the ultimate created antecedent of all the motion, heat, and light at present in the universe'. In other words, it was 'the original form of all the energy in the universe'. Such a speculation conformed to his theology of nature in which God had created energy ex nihilo in the beginning by His absolute power and had sustained its quantity by His ordained power."
  5. ^ Carlyle, Thomas ♦ Chartism ♦ Chapman & Hall, 1858, p. 229
  6. ^ Shakespeare, William ♦ Othello ♦ 1603
  7. ^ Soviet Physics, Uspekhi v. 40, issues 1–6, American Institute of Physics, 1997, p. 39
  8. ^ Volovik, Grigory E. ♦ The Universe in a Helium Droplet Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 60

Further reading[edit]



potential c

  1. potential


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

Related terms[edit]