Definition of potential in English:



  • [attributive] Having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future.

    ‘a campaign to woo potential customers’
    • ‘New or potential customers may be located around the globe or in your local area.’
    • ‘In particular, it claims the cost of the service is likely to turn-off potential customers.’
    • ‘For potential investors, the prospect of enjoying cheap beer is far more appealing.’
    • ‘It is expressed in the present tense, and refers to current use, not past or future or potential use.’
    • ‘She admitted that potential savings were probably not top of the list, however.’
    • ‘There are many potential abuses that future governments may make of the information contained on a card.’
    • ‘Many supermarkets now provide free buses to carry potential customers into their premises.’
    • ‘The history of the 1869 work is thought to have boosted its value among potential bidders.’
    • ‘This fusion of unfamiliar conditions would normally make the hosts among the potential winners.’
    • ‘Links are also being developed with potential partners in New York, Dubai and Helsinki.’
    • ‘Visitors to the city's boat show would also be among the potential guests targeted.’
    • ‘Hunt said he was worried about the development because of the potential fire threat.’
    • ‘A woman who has fallen on hard times finds a potential saviour among the gravestones.’
    • ‘It's a version of last year's winning car, but perhaps near the end of its potential development.’
    • ‘They can be seen as potential development land by philistines who only see land as money waiting to happen.’
    • ‘The range of potential targets for future intervention will grow correspondingly.’
    • ‘Instead the study was just a process to find out the potential capacity for new homes.’
    • ‘Additionally, rarely will a new potential customer buy on the first visit.’
    • ‘A prospectus for potential sponsors raises the prospect of boarding academies.’
    • ‘Why is the government so timid about embryo research given the potential rewards?’
    possible, likely, prospective, future, probable, budding, in the making
    latent, embryonic, developing, dormant, inherent, unrealized, undeveloped
    View synonyms


  • 1[mass noun] Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.

    ‘a young broadcaster with great potential’
    [count noun] ‘the potentials of the technology were never wholly controllable’
    • ‘He was talented and hard-working and had such potential for success in life.’
    • ‘Unfulfilled potential is about as useful as a canal with no water in it.’
    • ‘It is a compliment to his ability and obvious potential that his name has been so widely mentioned.’
    • ‘You could say that we can compare our capabilities and potential to that of an iceberg!’
    • ‘We also see tremendous potential in developing our client base in Harrogate and surrounding areas.’
    • ‘Following on from this, I think this story has excellent potential if developed cleverly.’
    • ‘It is a tragedy in this case because the life lost was one with such future potential.’
    • ‘The first drew on evidence that selection led to a huge waste of national potential.’
    • ‘This will allow them to develop individual academic and sporting talent to full potential.’
    • ‘It is for the society at large to harness the latent potential in the children and benefit out of that.’
    • ‘Few tracks offer a most searching examination of a thoroughbred's ability, and potential.’
    • ‘He is a talented player, but has yet to develop his potential and prove his staying power.’
    • ‘Its success potential will rest heavily on how strictly its license terms are defined.’
    • ‘In the modern game, too often managers are chosen on potential rather than proven ability.’
    • ‘Any time that a hospital doctor devotes to computing does not lead to increased income potential.’
    • ‘The only real way to compare potential is to give everyone the same chance to shine.’
    • ‘We have vast untapped potential in hydro power and in natural gas from the Arctic.’
    • ‘The merit acquired from this gift is used to trigger the forces of latent positive potential in oneself or others.’
    • ‘If this facility is not used to its potential, the future of the Club could be in jeopardy.’
    • ‘Often the biggest barrier for women is a lack of confidence in their own skills and potential.’
    possibilities, potentiality, prospects
    promise, capability, capacity, ability, power
    aptitude, talent, flair
    what it takes
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1The possibility of something happening or of someone doing something in the future.
      ‘pesticides with the potential to cause cancer’
      • ‘It has experienced strong growth in the past three years and has good potential for future growth.’
      • ‘More to the point still, is this potential to anger particularly strong in the media?’
      • ‘He also said the county had huge potential to develop and expand in rural areas.’
      • ‘There is so much potential for this to be one of Bradford's most attractive shopping thoroughfares.’
      • ‘The site had previously been listed in the town's Local Plan as having potential for development.’
      • ‘The trials in February are to identify those riders who have potential to compete in the Paralympics.’
      • ‘They have potential for greatness, but they need to let go, let it happen.’
      • ‘There is a ruined former railway cottage on the property with potential for further development.’
      • ‘The potential for future conflicts is horrific, and will remain so while capitalism survives.’
      • ‘It struck them both there was potential to offer a service commercially.’
      • ‘Modern medicine raises the stakes as its power to do good is accompanied by increasing potential for harm.’
      • ‘Rural pubs have great potential to assume a business and community role.’
      • ‘While I am in favor of this technology, it possesses a hell of a lot of potential for abuse.’
      • ‘They were of course unaware of the latent potential for economic growth just around the corner.’
      • ‘Inevitably the campaigners have now turned their sights to potential for suing drinks companies.’
      • ‘It was as a viable project with potential for economic regeneration and ecological improvements.’
      • ‘It will spend the next few years developing the area's potential for exploration.’
  • 2Physics
    The quantity determining the energy of mass in a gravitational field or of charge in an electric field.

    ‘a change in gravitational potential’
    [count noun] ‘measurements of induced electrical potentials’
    • ‘The normal conduction of action potentials is reliant upon sodium channels.’
    • ‘This is well established by studies on electro-osmosis and streaming potentials.’
    • ‘Various measurable bits in the universe have vastly different potentials to have a causal impact.’
    • ‘A problem with evoked potentials is that their amplitude is exceedingly small.’
    • ‘Electrical action potentials, osmotic perturbations or chemical signals may trigger these waves.’


Late Middle English: from late Latin potentialis, from potentia power, from potent- being able (see potent). The noun dates from the early 19th century.