possible, as opposed to actual: the potential uses of nuclear energy.
capable of being or becoming: a potential danger to safety.
Grammar. expressing possibility: the potential subjunctive in Latin; the potential use of can in I can go.
Archaic. potent1.
possibility; potentiality: an investment that has little growth potential.
a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed.
a potential aspect, mood, construction, case, etc.
a form in the potential.
Electricity, electric potential ( def 1 ).
Mathematics, Physics. a type of function from which the intensity of a field may be derived, usually by differentiation.
someone or something that is considered a worthwhile possibility: The list of job applications has been narrowed to half a dozen potentials.

1350–1400; Middle English potencial (< Old French) < Late Latin potentiālis. See potency, -al1

nonpotential, adjective, noun

2. See latent. 5. capacity, potency.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
potential (pəˈtɛnʃəl)
1.  a.  possible but not yet actual
 b.  (prenominal) capable of being or becoming but not yet in existence; latent
2.  grammar (of a verb or form of a verb) expressing possibility, as English may and might
3.  an archaic word for potent
4.  latent but unrealized ability or capacity: Jones has great potential as a sales manager
5.  grammar a potential verb or verb form
6.  short for electric potential
[C14: from Old French potencial, from Late Latin potentiālis, from Latin potentia power]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., "possible" (as opposed to actual), from L.L. potentialis "potential," from L. potentia "power" (see potent). The noun, meaning "that which is possible," is first attested 1817, from the adj.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

potential po·ten·tial (pə-těn'shəl)
Capable of being but not yet in existence; latent. n.

  1. The inherent ability or capacity for growth, development, or coming into being.

  2. The work required to bring a unit electric charge, magnetic pole, or mass from an infinitely distant position to a designated point in a static electric, magnetic, or gravitational field, respectively.

  3. The potential energy of a unit charge at any point in an electric circuit measured with respect to a specified reference point in the circuit or to ground; voltage.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
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Example sentences
Too many people give up and settle for just a fraction of what they can be, failing to realize their potential.
But they are the most important types of heroes to support, because they have the highest potential to do extremely good works.
As for the conventions, the critics complained that both candidates displayed little savvy about the potential of the medium.
There are some potential pitfalls, however.
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