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[leyt-nt] /ˈleɪt nt/
present but not visible, apparent, or actualized; existing as potential:
latent ability.
Pathology. (of an infectious agent or disease) remaining in an inactive or hidden phase; dormant.
Psychology. existing in unconscious or dormant form but potentially able to achieve expression:
a latent emotion.
Botany. (of buds that are not externally manifest) dormant or undeveloped.
1610-20; < Latin latent- (stem of latēns) present participle of latēre to lie hidden; see -ent
Related forms
latently, adverb
1. dormant, quiescent, veiled, Latent, potential refer to powers or possibilities existing but hidden or not yet actualized. Latent emphasizes the hidden character or the dormancy of what is named: latent qualities, defects, diseases. That which is potential exists in an as yet undeveloped state, but is thought of as capable of coming into full being or activity at some future time: potential genius, tragedy. Potential may be applied also to tangibles: High-tension wires are a potential source of danger.
1. open, active. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for latent
  • The latent content of all languages is the same-the intuitive science of experience.
  • Once water begins to condense into dew and fog, it releases latent heat, which slows the cooling of the air significantly.
  • Rising air cools and eventually condenses in the form of cloud droplets, releasing latent heat in the process.
  • There are losses each time, amongst them, you do not recover the latent heat of water expelled as steam.
  • But the latent heat of fusion would be close to pure water.
  • Your overarching, if latent, cliché was that politics affects culture.
  • These are all necessary to facilitate the exact degree of latent heat required to convert the opium into vapor.
  • Talents and latent tendencies that have been nurtured are ready to blossom.
British Dictionary definitions for latent


potential but not obvious or explicit
(of buds, spores, etc) dormant
(pathol) (esp of an infectious disease) not yet revealed or manifest
(of a virus) inactive in the host cell, its nucleic acid being integrated into, and replicated with, the host cell's DNA
(psychoanal) relating to that part of a dream expressive of repressed desires: latent content Compare manifest (sense 2)
Derived Forms
latency, noun
latently, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from Latin latēnt-, from latens present participle of latēre to lie hidden
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for latent

mid-15c., "concealed, secret," from Latin latentem (nominative latens) "lying hid, secret, unknown," present participle of latere "to lie hidden," from PIE *laidh-, from root *la- "to be hidden" (cf. Greek lethe "forgetfulness, oblivion," Old Church Slavonic lajati "to lie in wait for"). Meaning "dormant" is from 1680s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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latent in Medicine

latent la·tent (lāt'nt)

  1. Present or potential but not evident or active.

  2. In a dormant or hidden stage, as an infection.

  3. Undeveloped but capable of normal growth under the proper conditions.

  4. Present in the unconscious mind but not consciously expressed.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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