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  • 1. Possible as opposed to actual; having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future; latent; prospective.
  • 2. Medicine. Designating (the use of) a cauterizing agent other than a red-hot implement, esp. a caustic substance; contrasted with actual (cf. CAUTERY n. 1). Chiefly in potential cautery. Now hist.
  • 3. Possessing potency or power; potent, powerful, mighty, strong; commanding. Now rare.
  • 4. Grammar. Designating or relating to a part of a verb used to express possibility. Chiefly in potential mood n. a mood, such as the subjunctive, used to express possibility. Also fig. with humorous play on sense A. 3 (e.g., quots. 1680, 1823). With reference to French grammar, sometimes applied to the conditional.
  • 5. Physics. Designating a property or attribute that a body possesses by virtue of its position or state, but which is only manifested or released under changed conditions. Chiefly in POTENTIAL ENERGY n. , potential temperature n. at Special uses.
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  • 1. Med. A cauterization performed using an agent other than a red-hot implement, esp. a caustic substance; such a substance. Cf. sense A. 2. Obs. rare.
  • 2. Something which is possible, as opposed to actual; capacity for growth, achievement, future development or use; resources able to be used or developed.
  • 3. Something that gives strength or ability, a power. Obs.
  • 4. Grammar. The potential mood; a grammatical construction in this mood.
  • 5. Physics.
a. A quantity of energy, work, etc., expressed by a potential function and associated with each point in a gravitational, electrical, or other field, being equivalent to that required to move a body, charge, etc., from the given point to a reference point whose potential is arbitrarily defined as zero (e.g. the earth, infinity); such a quantity considered as a quality or condition of the matter, electricity, etc., in question. Also: a potential function; (more widely) any function from which a vector field F can be derived by differentiation, esp. (more fully scalar potential) a scalar function such that F = - grad , and (more fully vector potential) a vector field A such that F = curl A. action, electric, gravitational, ionization, oxidation, velocity potential, etc.: see the first element. [Introduced in 1828, by G. Green, with special reference to electricity
b. More fully thermodynamic potential. Any of various thermodynamic functions mathematically analogous to electric and gravitational potentials, including Gibbs free energy, Helmholtz free energy, enthalpy, internal energy, and chemical potential.

See also


Man's urge for Paradise perfection, his striving for God-attainment, creates a genuine divinity tension in the living cosmos which can only be resolved by the evolution of an immortal soul; this is what happens in the experience of a single mortal creature. But when all creatures and all Creators in the grand universe likewise strive for God-attainment and divine perfection, there is built up a profound cosmic tension which can only find resolution in the sublime synthesis of almighty power with the spirit person of the evolving God of all creatures, the Supreme Being.