[ puh-ten-shuhl ]
See synonyms for potential on Thesaurus.com
  1. possible, as opposed to actual: the potential uses of nuclear energy.

  2. capable of being or becoming: a potential danger to safety.

  1. Grammar. expressing possibility: the potential subjunctive in Latin; the potential use of can in I can go.

  2. Archaic. potent1.

  1. possibility; potentiality: an investment that has little growth potential.

  2. a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed.

  1. Grammar.

    • a potential aspect, mood, construction, case, etc.

    • a form in the potential.

  2. Mathematics, Physics. a type of function from which the intensity of a field may be derived, usually by differentiation.

  3. someone or something that is considered a worthwhile possibility: The list of job applications has been narrowed to half a dozen potentials.

Origin of potential

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English potencial (from Old French ), from Late Latin potentiālis. See potency, -al1

synonym study For potential

2. See latent.

Other words for potential

Other words from potential

  • non·po·ten·tial, adjective, noun

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

How to use potential in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for potential


/ (pəˈtɛnʃəl) /

    • possible but not yet actual

    • (prenominal) capable of being or becoming but not yet in existence; latent

  1. grammar (of a verb or form of a verb) expressing possibility, as English may and might

  1. an archaic word for potent 1

  1. latent but unrealized ability or capacity: Jones has great potential as a sales manager

  2. grammar a potential verb or verb form

Origin of potential

C14: from Old French potencial, from Late Latin potentiālis, from Latin potentia power

Derived forms of potential

  • potentially, 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