- Tangent is something or a thought that touches but doesn't intersect, or is irrelevant.
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 definition by Webster's New World
- 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: Classical Latin tangens, present participle of tangere, to touch: see tact
- 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: < ModL (linea) tangens, tangent (line)
- tangency noun
tangent definition by American Heritage Dictionary
- Making contact at a single point or along a line; touching but not intersecting.
- 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.
- Abbr. tan Mathematics 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 the courtroom argument.
- 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.
Origin: Latin (līnea) tangēns, tangent-, touching (line), present participle of tangere, to touch; see tag- in Indo-European roots.
tan Θ= a/b
tangent - Phrases/Idioms
go off at (or on) a tangentor fly off at (or on) a tangent
tangent - Science Definition
- A line, curve, or surface touching but not intersecting another.
- The ratio of the length of the side opposite an acute angle in a right triangle to the side adjacent to the angle. The tangent of an angle is equal to the sine of the angle divided by the cosine of the angle.
- The ratio of the ordinate to the abscissa of the endpoint of an arc of a unit circle centered at the origin of a Cartesian coordinate system, the arc being of length x and measured counterclockwise from the point (1, 0) if x is positive or clockwise if x is negative.
- A function of a number x, equal to the tangent of an angle whose measure in radians is equal to x.