• synonyms


  1. present but not visible, apparent, or actualized; existing as potential: latent ability.
  2. Pathology. (of an infectious agent or disease) remaining in an inactive or hidden phase; dormant.
  3. Psychology. existing in unconscious or dormant form but potentially able to achieve expression: a latent emotion.
  4. Botany. (of buds that are not externally manifest) dormant or undeveloped.
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Origin of latent

1610–20; < Latin latent- (stem of latēns) present participle of latēre to lie hidden; see -ent
Related formsla·tent·ly, adverb


1. dormant, quiescent, veiled, 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.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for latently

Historical Examples

  • The deeper sort, however, usually felt it latently English enough.

    The Tragic Muse

    Henry James

  • This one's mind, he could now see, was immature but latently capable.

    Man of Many Minds

    E. Everett Evans

  • But a more serious consequence is latently contained in it, and nothing else than the Nestorian heresy, viz.

British Dictionary definitions for latently


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

Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for latently



mid-15c., "concealed, secret," from Latin latentem (nominative latens) "lying hid, secret, unknown," present participle of latere "to lie hidden," from PIE *laidh-, from root *la- "to be hidden" (cf. Greek lethe "forgetfulness, oblivion," Old Church Slavonic lajati "to lie in wait for"). Meaning "dormant" is from 1680s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

latently in Medicine


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