[ tan-jen-shuh l ]
/ tænˈdʒɛn ʃəl /


pertaining to or of the nature of a tangent; being or moving in the direction of a tangent.
merely touching; slightly connected: tangential information.
divergent or digressive, as from a subject under consideration: tangential remarks.
tending to digress or to reply to questions obliquely.

Nearby words

  1. tangent,
  2. tangent galvanometer,
  3. tangent line,
  4. tangent plane,
  5. tangental,
  6. tangential motion,
  7. tangentiality,
  8. tangentially,
  9. tangerine,
  10. tangi

Also tan·gen·tal [tan-jen-tl] /tænˈdʒɛn tl/.

Origin of tangential

First recorded in 1620–30; tangent + -ial

Related forms
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tangential

British Dictionary definitions for tangential


/ (tænˈdʒɛnʃəl) /


of, being, relating to, or in the direction of a tangent
Also: transverse astronomy (of velocity) in a direction perpendicular to the line of sight of a celestial objectCompare radial (def. 6)
of superficial relevance only; digressive
Derived Formstangentiality, nountangentially or tangentally, 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

Word Origin and History for tangential



1620s, see tangent; figurative sense of "divergent, erratic" is from 1787. Related: Tangentially.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper