1. Possessing inner or physical strength; powerful.
a. Exerting or capable of exerting strong physiological or chemical effects: potent liquor; a potent toxin.
b. Exerting or capable of exerting strong influence; cogent: potent arguments.
3. Having great control or authority: "The police were potent only so long as they were feared" (Thomas Burke).
4. Able to achieve and maintain an erection that allows for sexual intercourse. Used of a male.
[Middle English, from Latin potēns, potent-, present participle of posse, to be able; see poti- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.