Tangent meaning

tănjənt
Frequency:
A sudden digression or change of course.

Went off on a tangent during his presentation.

noun
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1
That touches; touching.
adjective
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1
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.
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1
(geometry) A straight line touching a curve at a single point without crossing it there.
noun
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1
(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.
noun
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1
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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.

noun
3
1
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.
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1
A function of a number x, equal to the tangent of an angle whose measure in radians is equal to x.
2
1
Making contact at a single point or along a line; touching but not intersecting.
adjective
2
2
A line, curve, or surface touching but not intersecting another.
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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.

noun
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(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.
noun
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(trigonometry) The reciprocal of the cotangent.
  • 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)
noun
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A small metal blade by which a clavichord produces sound.
noun
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(geometry) Touching a curve at a single point but not crossing it at that point.
adjective
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Of a topic, only loosely related to a main topic.
adjective
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(geom.) Touching and not intersecting a curve or curved surface at one and only one point.
adjective
0
2
go off at a tangent
  • to break off suddenly from a line of action or train of thought and pursue another course
idiom
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2

Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

go off at a tangent

Origin of tangent

  • Latin (līnea) tangēns tangent- touching (line) present participle of tangere to touch tag- in Indo-European roots

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

  • 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 tangō (“touch", verb), from Proto-Indo-European *tag-, *taǵ- (“to touch"). Cognate with Old English þaccian (“to touch lightly, pat, stroke"). More at thack, thwack.

    From Wiktionary