[ leyt-nt ]
/ ˈleɪt nt /
Save This Word!

present but not visible, apparent, or activated; existing as potential: latent ability.
Pathology. (of an infectious agent or disease) in a phase of being hidden or unrecognized; not yet exhibiting symptoms. Compare dormant (def. 4).
Psychology. existing in unconscious or dormant form but potentially able to achieve expression: latent learning,a latent emotion.
Botany. (of buds that are not externally manifest) dormant or undeveloped.
Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

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.


la·tent·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

How to use latent in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for latent

/ (ˈleɪtənt) /

potential but not obvious or explicit
(of buds, spores, etc) dormant
pathol (esp of an infectious disease) not yet revealed or manifest
(of a virus) inactive in the host cell, its nucleic acid being integrated into, and replicated with, the host cell's DNA
psychoanal relating to that part of a dream expressive of repressed desireslatent content Compare manifest (def. 2)

Derived forms of latent

latency, nounlatently, adverb

Word Origin for latent

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

Medical definitions for latent

[ lātnt ]

Present or potential but not evident or active.
In a dormant or hidden stage, as an infection.
Undeveloped but capable of normal growth under the proper conditions.
Present in the unconscious mind but not consciously expressed.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.