on a tangent

Idioms & Phrases

on a tangent

On a sudden digression or change of course, as in The professor's hard to follow; he's always off on a tangent. This phrase often occurs in the idioms fly off or go off on a tangent, as in The witness was convincing until he went off on a tangent. This expression alludes to the geometric tangenta line or curve that touches but does not intersect with another line or curve. [Second half of 1700s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
Cite This Source
Explore Dictionary.com
Previous Definition: on a sudden
Next Definition: on a wind
Words Near: on a tangent
More from Thesaurus.com
Synonyms and Antonyms for on a tangent
More from Reference.com
Search for articles containing on a tangent
More from Dictionary.com Translator
Dictionary.com Word FAQs

Dictionary.com presents 366 FAQs, incorporating some of the frequently asked questions from the past with newer queries.

Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature