[ poht-n-see ]
/ ˈpoʊt n si /
Save This Word!

noun, plural po·ten·cies for 4-6.
the state or quality of being potent.
power; authority: the potency of God's word.
capacity to be, become, or develop; potentiality.
a person or thing exerting power or influence.
Hold your head up high as you embark on this quiz that explores some of the synonyms and meanings of “pride.”
Question 1 of 7
What does "dignity" mean?
Also potence .

Origin of potency

From the Latin word potentia, dating back to 1530–40. See potent1, -ency


o·ver·po·ten·cy, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does potency mean?

Potency means strength and effectiveness.

It is most commonly used in the context of medications and drugs in reference to how strong or effective they are or are capable of being.

It can also be used in a more general way to refer to the power or effectiveness of someone or something, such as a leader or a statement.

Potency is the noun form of the adjective potent, which generally means powerful but is commonly applied to things that produce a powerful physical or chemical effect.

Example: The medication will lose its potency if kept in the sunlight.

Where does potency come from?

The first records of the word potency come from around the 1500s. It ultimately derives from the Latin potentia, meaning “power.”

Potency is perhaps most commonly used in a medical context, in which it refers to the strength of the effect that something can have on the body. A substance with high potency will have a big effect on the body, and something with low potency will have a smaller one. For example, some strains of cannabis have a higher potency than others. When a drug is said to lose or gain potency under certain circumstances, this means it becomes weaker or stronger depending on those conditions. While the word is usually used in reference to a drug, it can also be used in reference to a disease. The potency of a disease can change when it mutates, for example.

More generally, potency refers to how powerful someone or something is—its strength or effectiveness. It can be used in reference to a person, as in Her potency as a leader is unquestioned, or an action, as in The potency of any apology is immediately weakened by the word “but.”

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to potency?

  • overpotency (noun)

What are some synonyms for potency?

What are some words that share a root or word element with potency


What are some words that often get used in discussing potency?


How is potency used in real life?

Potency can be used in many different contexts, but it’s most commonly used in relation to how powerful a drug is.



Try using potency!

Is potency used correctly in the following sentence? 

The potency of the medicine means that it needs to be used very carefully according to the instructions.

How to use potency in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for potency



/ (ˈpəʊtənsɪ) /

noun plural -tencies or -tences
the state or quality of being potent
latent or inherent capacity for growth or development

Word Origin for potency

C16: from Latin potentia power, from posse to be able
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 potency

[ pōtn-sē ]

The quality or condition of being potent.
The pharmacological activity of a compound.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.