Definition of lateral in English:



  • 1Of, at, towards, or from the side or sides.

    ‘the plant takes up water through its lateral roots’
    • ‘The tiny mollusks, called orchid or bush snails, feast on surface or lateral roots that would otherwise keep the exotic blooms upright.’
    • ‘She pressed the final button and everyone felt a lateral pull towards the back of the craft.’
    • ‘In the process of the removal of top-soil, lateral roots of trees are damaged.’
    • ‘In plant roots with other types of aerenchyma, lateral root primordia or bases are always surrounded by solid parenchymatous tissue.’
    • ‘A similar pattern was observed for young lateral roots with stronger signals in the mutants that extended beyond the root tip (data not shown).’
    • ‘In many species, lateral roots proliferate in, and/or grow towards, zones of higher nutrient availability.’
    • ‘However, it was reported that the apical diameter of lateral roots of oak was not closely correlated with their growth rate but was still indicative of their potential growth rate.’
    • ‘The results show that lateral roots play an important role in anchorage, and that co-operation between roots may be the most significant factor.’
    • ‘Choose location carefully: After five or six years the tree is difficult to transplant because it has a central tap root with many lateral roots.’
    • ‘The plants were used for experiments when the lateral roots (partly damaged during collection of the plants from field plots) had been growing for 3 weeks.’
    • ‘At this stage, primary roots were approximately 3-4 cm in length and lateral roots had not yet developed.’
    • ‘For propagation, cut off the lateral rosettes with roots during March to April or September to October and plant in ordinary soil.’
    • ‘After 180 min, the protrusion of a new lateral root initial was clearly distinguishable.’
    • ‘The percentage of damaged lateral roots strongly increased with increasing lateral root growth rate.’
    • ‘So-called adventitious roots grow from a different layer of plant cells than regular, lateral roots.’
    • ‘A week later, when the roots had covered the surface of the plate, the lateral roots were sliced 3-6 mm above the tip with a scalpel blade and the older tissue was removed.’
    • ‘The root system will have a deteriorated tap-root and lateral roots will only be evident in the upper soil profile.’
    • ‘Conical lateral root primordia and round-shaped nodule primordia can be discriminated in the taproots.’
    • ‘A detailed study of the fifth shoot-borne root showed that one lateral root mother cell develops in each two out of three successive merophytes.’
    • ‘The formation of lateral root meristems, induced by low concentrations of paraquat or alloxan, was initiated in the pericycle, but not in the cortex or epidermis of Arabidopsis seedlings.’
    sideways, sidewise, sidelong, sideward, edgewise, edgeways, side, flank, wing, indirect, oblique, slanting
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    1. 1.1Anatomy Zoology Situated on one side or other of the body or of an organ, especially in the region furthest from the median plane.
      ‘the upper lateral incisor’
      The opposite of medial
      ‘the radius lies lateral to the ulna’
      • ‘This shows the astragalus and cuboid of Rodhocetus in dorsal, lateral and ventral views.’
      • ‘Lateral to the midbrain are the medial and lateral geniculate bodies.’
      • ‘The fabella is a sesamoid bone of the lateral gastrocnemius muscle.’
      • ‘The discrepancy is most obvious with regards to the dorsal head regions, which give rise to the lateral and median ocelli.’
      • ‘Puncture wounds were made on the ventral side, slightly lateral to the midline.’
    2. 1.2Medicine (of a disease or condition) affecting the side or sides of the body, or confined to one side of the body.
      ‘lateral sclerosis’
      • ‘Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive disease affecting both upper and lower motor neurons.’
      • ‘Brachioradial pruritus is an uncommon condition that presents as lateral arm pruritus and has been associated with spinal disease.’
      • ‘The same study noted that Filipino men suffered more from lateral sclerosis than other men did.’
      • ‘The results of unicompartmental knee replacement in lateral compartment disease have yet to be fully determined.’
      • ‘Extracorporeal shock wave therapy is no more effective than sham therapy in patients with lateral epicondylitis.’
    3. 1.3Physics Acting or placed at right angles to the line of motion or of strain.
      ‘the greater lateral forces encountered by the front wheel during cornering’
      • ‘Possible effects of monomer tilt or lateral motion on the elastic energy are neglected.’
      • ‘If the laser head is rotated 90 degrees to the tape motion, there is potential that it can pick up the lateral motion of the tape surface.’
      • ‘The monomers undergo rotary motion with simultaneous relative lateral displacement rather than direct axial separation.’
      • ‘To get the upper surface sliding, a lateral force has to lift the teeth out of the grooves - that force is static friction.’
      • ‘Rotation reduces linear friction, and lateral motion reduces rotational friction, so that a kind of negative feedback arises.’
  • 2British Involving lateral thinking.

    ‘he's very creative in a lateral way’
    • ‘Being lateral is being creative; or so the pundits of this form of thinking would tell you.’
    • ‘For me the benefits of being more creative, better at lateral thought and problem-solving, and all that gubbins more than make more than make up for it.’
    unorthodox, inventive, creative, imaginative, original, innovative, ingenious
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  • 3Phonetics
    (of a consonant, especially the English clear l) pronounced with partial closure of the air passage by the tongue, which is so placed as to allow the breath to flow on one or both sides of the point of contact.

    • ‘The /l/ at the end of ‘bell’ is still phonetically a lateral consonant for me, pronounced with the blade of my tongue in contact with the roof of my mouth.’
    • ‘Many aboriginal Australian languages have a series of three or four lateral approximants, as do various dialects of Irish.’
    • ‘In this chapter the occurrence of laterals of this common type and of various other kinds of lateral consonants that are less frequently found will be discussed.’


  • 1A side part of something, especially a shoot or branch growing out from the side of a stem.

    ‘cut back all the laterals to within two buds of the main stem’
    • ‘After spring flowering, remove twiggy growth and cut back laterals to three buds.’
    • ‘These adventitious, or opportunistic, roots grow in clusters along older roots - even on larger roots whose laterals have long since died back.’
    • ‘In these treatments, basal laterals showed higher total phosphorus influx than taproot laterals.’
    • ‘If you are very lucky, you can just top the tree, remove appropriate branches, and then force the branches, or laterals, out horizontally by staking them.’
    • ‘In winter, prune back laterals that are produced to within 24 inches of the main canes.’
    • ‘Basal laterals and taproot laterals were around 20 mm long and basal roots were approximately ten times longer.’
    • ‘If the leader is growing vigorously and no laterals are forming at a height you would like, pinch out an inch of the tip growth when it is at the height you would like a permanent branch.’
    • ‘Choristospore dasyclads develop cysts within inflated structures termed gametophores borne along the tips or sides of laterals.’
    • ‘Basal laterals and taproot laterals had comparable phosphorus influx.’
    • ‘Vines on weaker rootstocks had fewer long shoots, so higher proportions of older shoots with short one-year-old laterals were therefore retained as the fruiting crown.’
    • ‘Branches are cut back to laterals that are at least one-third the diameter of the limb being removed.’
  • 2Phonetics
    A lateral consonant.

    • ‘This contrasts with its original meaning, which applied only to the lateral and rhotic that may occur as the second member of a cluster.’
    • ‘Obstruent laterals, which are mainly found in indigenous languages of North America, are sometimes thought of as liquids but do not have their high sonority.’
    • ‘These vowels have little if any constriction in the vocal tract and so the lateral before these vowels takes on the ‘default’ alveolar articulation.’
  • 3American Football
    A pass thrown either sideways or back.

    • ‘After taking a lateral from White, Butler scored and jumped head-first into the front row of the endzone seats.’
    • ‘Winning and losing separated by mere inches - however many you think made that pass a forward one or a lateral.’


Late Middle English: from Latin lateralis, from latus, later- ‘side’.