Definition of tangent in English:


Line breaks: tan|gent
Pronunciation: /ˈtan(d)ʒ(ə)nt


  • 1A straight line or plane that touches a curve or curved surface at a point, but if extended does not cross it at that point.
    More example sentences
    • He noticed that he could draw three straight lines, or tangents, that each touched all three circles.
    • Since normals to a straight line never intersect and tangents coincide with the curve, evolutes, involutes and pedal curves are not too interesting.
    • One of his most important results explains how the 28 double tangents of the plane quadric are related to the 27 straight lines of the cubic surface.
  • 2A completely different line of thought or action: Loretta’s mind went off at a tangent
    More example sentences
    • Look at that, we started with the opening credits and I went off on a tangent.
    • Otherwise, people will start going off on different tangents, and you can't have that.
    • Thankfully, he went off on a different tangent.
  • 3 Mathematics The trigonometric function that is equal to the ratio of the sides (other than the hypotenuse) opposite and adjacent to an angle in a right-angled triangle.
    More example sentences
    • The first tabulates logarithms of the sine, cosine, tangent and cotangent functions at 1 intervals and shows how to solve triangles using logarithmic functions.
    • The proof needs another formula about tangents of angles that we have not covered on the Pi and the Fibonacci Numbers page.
    • If the tangent of an angle is a/b then the cotangent of that angle is b/a.


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  • (Of a line or plane) touching, but not intersecting, a curve or curved surface: this curve is tangent to the average cost curve
    More example sentences
    • Smooth infinitesimal analysis embodies a concept of intensive magnitude in the form of infinitesimal tangent vectors to curves.
    • Construct two tangent circles 1 and 2 and the line L through their centers.
    • The Kummer surface has 16 isolated conical double points and 16 singular tangent planes and was published in 1864.



More example sentences
  • Depending on the geometry type, you can preserve projection, plane, position, tangency, curvature, and any valid combination of these characteristics.
  • For complementary resources, this combination is also the point of tangency between an isocline and the constraint curve.
  • Two tangents of a parabola are divided into segments of like proportion by a third and this third is divided in the same proportion by its point of tangency.


late 16th century (in sense 3 of the noun and as an adjective): from Latin tangent- 'touching', from the verb tangere.

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