[ leyt-nt ]
See synonyms for latent on
  1. present but not visible, apparent, or activated; existing as potential: latent ability.

  2. Pathology. (of an infectious agent or disease) in a phase of being hidden or unrecognized; not yet exhibiting symptoms. : Compare dormant (def. 4).

  1. Psychology. existing in unconscious or dormant form but potentially able to achieve expression: latent learning,a latent emotion.

  2. Botany. (of buds that are not externally manifest) dormant or undeveloped.

Origin of latent

First recorded before 1610–20; from Latin latent- (stem of latēns ), present participle of latēre “to lie hidden”; see -ent

synonym study For latent

1. Latent, potential refer to powers or possibilities existing but hidden or not yet actualized. Latent emphasizes the hidden character or the dormancy of what is named: latent qualities, defects, diseases. That which is potential exists in an as yet undeveloped state, but is thought of as capable of coming into full being or activity at some future time: potential genius, tragedy. Potential may be applied also to tangibles: High-tension wires are a potential source of danger.

Other words for latent

Opposites for latent

Other words from latent

  • la·tent·ly, adverb

Words Nearby latent Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use latent in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for latent


/ (ˈleɪtənt) /

  1. potential but not obvious or explicit

  2. (of buds, spores, etc) dormant

  1. pathol (esp of an infectious disease) not yet revealed or manifest

  2. (of a virus) inactive in the host cell, its nucleic acid being integrated into, and replicated with, the host cell's DNA

  3. psychoanal relating to that part of a dream expressive of repressed desires: latent content Compare manifest (def. 2)

Origin of latent

C17: from Latin latēnt-, from latens present participle of latēre to lie hidden

Derived forms of latent

  • latency, noun
  • latently, adverb

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012