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late 14c., "possible" (as opposed to actual), from Old French potenciel and directly from Late Latin potentialis "potential," from Latin potentia "power, might, force;" figuratively "political power, authority, influence," from potens "powerful" (see potent). The noun, meaning "that which is possible," is first attested 1817, from the adjective.
potential po·ten·tial (pə-těn'shəl)
Capable of being but not yet in existence; latent. n.
The inherent ability or capacity for growth, development, or coming into being.
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.
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.