One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A straight line that continually approaches a given curve but does not meet it at any finite distance.
- ‘In book two Apollonius investigates how hyperbolas are related to their asymptotes, and he also studies how to draw tangents to given conics.’
- ‘It simply means that, like a lot of science, absolute and mechanical objectivity is an asymptote we must always approach without quite reaching.’
- ‘She was up in her attic one afternoon, trying to concentrate on where to place her asymptotes on her hyperbola, but her mind traveled elsewhere.’
- ‘Like the asymptote, you are always approaching your goal, but you never achieve it.’
- ‘These models, which more closely resemble reality, involve one or two curves tending towards asymptotes.’
Mid 17th century: from modern Latin asymptota (linea) ‘(line) not meeting’, from Greek asumptōtos ‘not falling together’, from a- ‘not’ + sun ‘together’ + ptōtos ‘apt to fall’ (from piptein ‘to fall’).
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