Definition of lateral in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlat(ə)r(ə)l/


1Of, at, towards, or from the side or sides: the plant takes up water through its lateral roots
More example sentences
  • In many species, lateral roots proliferate in, and/or grow towards, zones of higher nutrient availability.
  • She pressed the final button and everyone felt a lateral pull towards the back of the craft.
  • For propagation, cut off the lateral rosettes with roots during March to April or September to October and plant in ordinary soil.
sideways, sidewise, sidelong, sideward, edgewise, edgeways, side, flank, wing, indirect, oblique, slanting
1.1 Anatomy & Zoology Situated on one side or other of the body or of an organ, especially in the region furthest from the median plane: the upper lateral incisor the radius lies lateral to the ulna The opposite of medial.
More example sentences
  • Puncture wounds were made on the ventral side, slightly lateral to the midline.
  • Lateral to the midbrain are the medial and lateral geniculate bodies.
  • The fabella is a sesamoid bone of the lateral gastrocnemius muscle.
1.2 Medicine (Of a disease or condition) affecting the side or sides of the body, or confined to one side of the body: lateral sclerosis
More example sentences
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive disease affecting both upper and lower motor neurons.
  • Brachioradial pruritus is an uncommon condition that presents as lateral arm pruritus and has been associated with spinal disease.
  • The results of unicompartmental knee replacement in lateral compartment disease have yet to be fully determined.
1.3 Physics Acting or placed at right angles to the line of motion or of strain: the greater lateral forces encountered by the front wheel during cornering
More example sentences
  • Rotation reduces linear friction, and lateral motion reduces rotational friction, so that a kind of negative feedback arises.
  • Possible effects of monomer tilt or lateral motion on the elastic energy are neglected.
  • If the laser head is rotated 90 degrees to the tape motion, there is potential that it can pick up the lateral motion of the tape surface.
2chiefly British Involving lateral thinking: he’s very creative in a lateral way
More example sentences
  • For me the benefits of being more creative, better at lateral thought and problem-solving, and all that gubbins more than make more than make up for it.
  • Being lateral is being creative; or so the pundits of this form of thinking would tell you.
unorthodox, inventive, creative, imaginative, original, innovative, ingenious
3 Phonetics (Of a consonant, especially the English clear l) pronounced with partial closure of the air passage by the tongue, which is so placed as to allow the breath to flow on one or both sides of the point of contact.
Example sentences
  • The /l/ at the end of ‘bell’ is still phonetically a lateral consonant for me, pronounced with the blade of my tongue in contact with the roof of my mouth.
  • Many aboriginal Australian languages have a series of three or four lateral approximants, as do various dialects of Irish.
  • In this chapter the occurrence of laterals of this common type and of various other kinds of lateral consonants that are less frequently found will be discussed.


1A side part of something, especially a shoot or branch growing out from the side of a stem: cut back all the laterals to within two buds of the main stem
More example sentences
  • If the leader is growing vigorously and no laterals are forming at a height you would like, pinch out an inch of the tip growth when it is at the height you would like a permanent branch.
  • Vines on weaker rootstocks had fewer long shoots, so higher proportions of older shoots with short one-year-old laterals were therefore retained as the fruiting crown.
  • Choristospore dasyclads develop cysts within inflated structures termed gametophores borne along the tips or sides of laterals.
2 Phonetics A lateral consonant.
Example sentences
  • Obstruent laterals, which are mainly found in indigenous languages of North America, are sometimes thought of as liquids but do not have their high sonority.
  • This contrasts with its original meaning, which applied only to the lateral and rhotic that may occur as the second member of a cluster.
  • These vowels have little if any constriction in the vocal tract and so the lateral before these vowels takes on the ‘default’ alveolar articulation.
3 American Football A pass thrown either sideways or back.
Example sentences
  • After taking a lateral from White, Butler scored and jumped head-first into the front row of the endzone seats.
  • Winning and losing separated by mere inches - however many you think made that pass a forward one or a lateral.


Late Middle English: from Latin lateralis, from latus, later- 'side'.

  • This word meaning ‘at or to the side’ is from Latin lateralis, ‘side, broad’ also found in latitude (Late Middle English).

Words that rhyme with lateral

bilateral, collateral, equilateral, multilateral, quadrilateral, trilateral, unilateral

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: lat|eral

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