Dictionary.com

orbital

[ awr-bi-tl ]
/ ˈɔr bɪ tl /
Save This Word!

adjective
of or relating to an orbit.
noun
Physics, Chemistry.
  1. a wave function describing the state of a single electron in an atom (atomic orbital ) or in a molecule (molecular orbital ).
  2. the electron in that state.

COMPARE MEANINGS

Click for a side-by-side comparison of meanings. Use the word comparison feature to learn the differences between similar and commonly confused words.
QUIZ
CAN YOU ANSWER THESE COMMON GRAMMAR DEBATES?
There are grammar debates that never die; and the ones highlighted in the questions in this quiz are sure to rile everyone up once again. Do you know how to answer the questions that cause some of the greatest grammar debates?
Question 1 of 7
Which sentence is correct?

Origin of orbital

1535–45; <New Latin, Medieval Latin orbitālis;see orbit, -al1

OTHER WORDS FROM orbital

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use orbital in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for orbital

orbital
/ (ˈɔːbɪtəl) /

adjective
of or denoting an orbit
(of a motorway or major road circuit) circling a large city
noun
a region surrounding an atomic nucleus in which the probability distribution of the electrons is given by a wave function
an orbital road

Derived forms of orbital

orbitally, 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

Scientific definitions for orbital

orbital
[ ôrbĭ-tl ]

A partial description of the quantum state of an electron (or other particle) orbiting the nucleus of an atom. Different orbitals have different shapes and orientations, depending on the energy of the electron, its angular momentum, and its magnetic number. Orbitals have no clear boundaries; the shape of an orbital, as depicted graphically, shows only the regions around the nucleus in which an electron has a relatively high probability of being found. No more than two electrons (each with opposite spin) can coexist in a single orbital because of the Pauli exclusion principle. See also probability wave quantum number shell.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
FEEDBACK