An example of a tangent is someone talking about a problem at work and then suddenly starts talking about something that happened to them in elementary school.
tangent
- that touches; touching
- Geom. touching and not intersecting a curve or curved surface at one and only one point: said of a line or plane
Origin of tangent
Classical Latin tangens, present participle of tangere, to touch: see tact- Geom.
- a tangent line, curve, or surface
- the length of a straight line tangent to a curve, measured from the point of tangency to the intersection of the tangent line with the x-axis
- Trigonometry the reciprocal of the cotangent; specif.,
- the ratio of the opposite side of a given acute angle in a right triangle to the adjacent side
- an equivalent, positive or negative ratio for certain related angles (Ex.: the tangent of 57° or 237° is 1.5399, of 123° or 303° is ?1.5399) or real numbers representing radians (Ex.: the tangent of .9948 radians (57°) is 1.5399)
Origin of tangent
< ModL (linea) tangens, tangent (line)go off at a tangent
tangent
noun
- Mathematics a. A line, curve, or surface meeting another line, curve, or surface at a common point and sharing a common tangent line or tangent plane at that point.b. Abbr. tan The trigonometric function of an acute angle in a right triangle that is the ratio of the length of the side opposite the angle to the length of the side adjacent to the angle.
- A sudden digression or change of course: went off on a tangent during his presentation.
- Music An upright pin in a keyboard instrument, especially in a clavichord, that rises to sound a string when a key is depressed and stops the string at a preset length to set the pitch.
adjective
Origin of tangent
Latin (l&imacron;nea) tang&emacron;ns, tangent-, touching (line), present participle of tangere, to touch; see tag- in Indo-European roots.tangent
tan &thgr; = ab
tangent
(plural tangents)
- (geometry) A straight line touching a curve at a single point without crossing it there.
- (trigonometry) In a right triangle, the ratio of the length of the side opposite the angle to the length of the side adjacent to the angle. Symbols: tan, tg
- A topic nearly unrelated to the main topic, but having a point in common with it.
- I believe we went off onto a tangent when we started talking about monkeys on unicycles at his retirement party.
- A small metal blade by which a clavichord produces sound.
(not comparable)
- (geometry) Touching a curve at a single point but not crossing it at that point.
- Of a topic, only loosely related to a main topic.
From Latin tangentem, the accusative of tangÄ“ns (“touching") (in the phrase lÄ«nea tangÄ“ns (“a touching line")), the present participle of the verb tangÅ (“touch", verb), from Proto-Indo-European *tag-, *taÇµ- (“to touch"). Cognate with Old English Ã¾accian (“to touch lightly, pat, stroke"). More at thack, thwack.