What does potential mean?

Here's a list of possible definitions for the term potential:

Princeton's WordNet

  1. potential, potentiality, potency(noun)

    the inherent capacity for coming into being

  2. electric potential, potential, potential difference, potential drop, voltage(adj)

    the difference in electrical charge between two points in a circuit expressed in volts

  3. potential, possible(adj)

    existing in possibility

    "a potential problem"; "possible uses of nuclear power"

  4. likely, potential(adj)

    expected to become or be; in prospect

    "potential clients"


  1. potential(Noun)

    Currently unrealized ability.

    Even from a young age it was clear that she had great musical potential.

  2. potential(Noun)

    The gravitational potential is the radial (irrotational, static) component of a gravitational field, also known as the Newtonian potential or the gravitoelectric field.

  3. potential(Noun)

    The work (energy) required to bring a unit positive electric charge from an infinite distance to a specified point against an electric field.

  4. potential(Noun)

    A verbal construction or form stating something is possible or probable.

  5. potential(Adjective)

    Existing in possibility, not in actuality.

  6. potential(Adjective)

    Being potent; endowed with energy adequate to a result; efficacious; influential.

  7. potential(Adjective)

    A potential field is an irrotational (static) field.

    From Maxwell equations (6.20) it follows that the electric field is potential: E(r)uE000128544uE001=uE000128545uE001u2212gradu03C6(r).uE000128546uE001

  8. potential(Adjective)

    A potential flow is an irrotational flow.

    The non-viscous flow of the vacuum should be potential (irrotational).uE000128547uE001

  9. potential(Adjective)

    Referring to a verbal construction of form stating something is possible or probable.

  10. Origin: From potentialis, from potentia, from potens; see potent.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Potential(adj)

    being potent; endowed with energy adequate to a result; efficacious; influential

  2. Potential(adj)

    existing in possibility, not in actuality

  3. Potential(noun)

    anything that may be possible; a possibility; potentially

  4. Potential(noun)

    in the theory of gravitation, or of other forces acting in space, a function of the rectangular coordinates which determine the position of a point, such that its differential coefficients with respect to the coordinates are equal to the components of the force at the point considered; -- also called potential function, or force function. It is called also Newtonian potential when the force is directed to a fixed center and is inversely as the square of the distance from the center

  5. Potential(noun)

    the energy of an electrical charge measured by its power to do work; hence, the degree of electrification as referred to some standard, as that of the earth; electro-motive force

  6. Origin: [Cf. F. potentiel. See Potency.]


  1. Potential

    Potential generally refers to a currently unrealized ability. The term is used in a wide variety of fields, from physics to the social sciences to indicate things that are in a state where they are able to change in ways ranging from the simple release of energy by objects to the realization of abilities in people. Examples include: In linguistics, the potential mood The mathematical study of potentials is known as potential theory; it is the study of harmonic functions on manifolds. This mathematical formulation arises from the fact that, in physics, the scalar potential is irrotational, and thus has a vanishing Laplacian — the very definition of a harmonic function. In physics, a potential may refer to the scalar potential or to the vector potential. In either case, it is a field defined in space, from which many important physical properties may be derived. Leading examples are the gravitational potential and the electric potential, from which the motion of gravitating or electrically charged bodies may be obtained. Specific forces have associated potentials, including the Coulomb potential, the van der Waals potential, the Lennard-Jones potential and the Yukawa potential. In electrochemistry there are Galvani potential, Volta potential, electrode potential, standard electrode potential.In Thermodynamics potential refers to thermodynamic potential.

The Standard Electrical Dictionary

  1. Potential

    Potential in general may be treated as an attribute of a point in space, and may express the potential energy which a unit mass would have if placed at that point. This conception of potential is that of a property attributable to a point in space, such that if a unit mass were placed there the forces acting upon it would supply the force factor of energy, while the body would supply the mass factor. This property is expressible in units, which produce, if the supposed mass is a unit mass, units of work or energy, but potential itself is neither. Thus taking gravitation, a pound mass on the surface of the earth (assuming it to be a sphere of 4,000 miles radius) would require the expenditure of 21,120,000 foot pounds to remove it to an infinite distance against gravity. The potential of a point in space upon the surface of the earth is therefore negative and is represented by -21,120,000*32.2 foot poundals (32.2 = acceleration of gravity). (See Poundal.) In practice and conventionally all points on the earth's surface are taken as of zero potential. [Transcriber's note; 21,120,000 foot pounds is about 8 KWh.]

Editors Contribution

  1. potential

    The ability or capacity to create.

    The potential for the future use of the software was so clear, we were delighted.

British National Corpus

  1. Spoken Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'potential' in Spoken Corpus Frequency: #1558

  2. Written Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'potential' in Written Corpus Frequency: #2792

  3. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'potential' in Nouns Frequency: #965

  4. Adjectives Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'potential' in Adjectives Frequency: #189

How to pronounce potential?

  1. Alex
    US English

How to say potential in sign language?

  1. potential


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of potential in Chaldean Numerology is: 2

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of potential in Pythagorean Numerology is: 4

Examples of potential in a Sentence

  1. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

    The potential is enormous.

  2. Cometan:

    Doubt kills all potential.

  3. Carol Levine:

    There are potential upsides.

  4. Russ Koesterich:

    There is more downside potential.

  5. Douglas Reed:

    Think about the potential crossover.

Images & Illustrations of potential

  1. potentialpotentialpotentialpotentialpotential

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