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[lat-er-uh l] /ˈlæt ər əl/
of or relating to the side; situated at, proceeding from, or directed to a side:
a lateral view.
pertaining to or entailing a position, office, etc., that is different but equivalent or roughly equivalent in status, as distinguished from a promotion or demotion:
a lateral move.
Phonetics. articulated so that the breath passes on either or both sides of the tongue, as l.
a lateral part or extension, as a branch or shoot.
Mining. a small drift off to the side of a principal one.
Phonetics. a lateral speech sound.
Football. lateral pass.
verb (used without object)
Football. to throw a lateral pass.
to move laterally or sideways:
migrating birds lateraling down into Cape May.
verb (used with object)
Football. to throw (the ball) in a lateral pass.
Origin of lateral
1590-1600; < Latin laterālis of the side, equivalent to later- (stem of latus) side + -ālis -al1
Related forms
laterally, adverb
pseudolateral, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for lateral
  • lateral buds grow along the sides of a shoot and give rise to the sideways growth that makes a plant bushy.
  • Once the plant is growing well, gradually begin pinching or pruning off lateral growth at the plant's base.
  • They have a lateral line down their whole body that senses motion, but maybe it does more than that.
  • Moreover, our pelvic anatomy exerts so-called lateral pressure on our lower joints.
  • She insisted that was, at best, a lateral move for an up and coming musician.
  • And of course, you can always keep your eye on openings that would amount to lateral moves for you and your partner.
  • If this is more of a lateral move, then that might be a different story.
  • The other was the lateral cerebellar cortex, which is more to do with manual abilities.
  • Even if they are wrong, a little lateral thinking may help shake up the field.
  • Protecting ships, however, requires lateral thinking.
British Dictionary definitions for lateral


of or relating to the side or sides: a lateral blow
(phonetics) (of a speech sound like l) pronounced with the tip of the tongue touching the centre of the alveolar ridge, leaving space on one or both sides for the passage of the airstream
a lateral object, part, passage, or movement
(phonetics) a lateral speech sound
(botany) a branch, leaf, or bud that grows out from the side of a stem or trunk
Derived Forms
laterally, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from Latin laterālis, from latus side
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 lateral

early 15c., from Middle French latéral and directly from Latin lateralis "belonging to the side," from latus (genitive lateris) "side" (see oblate (n.)). As a noun, from 1630s, "a side part." As a type of pass to the side in U.S. football, it is attested from 1934. Related: Laterally.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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lateral in Medicine

lateral lat·er·al (lāt'ər-əl)

  1. Relating to or situated at or on the side.

  2. Situated or extending away from the median plane of the body.

  3. Relating to the left or right lateral region of the abdomen.

A lateral part, position, or appendage.
lat'er·al·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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