a. A line, curve, or surface meeting another line, curve, or surface at a common point and sharing a common tangent line or tangent plane at that point.
b. Abbr. tan The trigonometric function of an acute angle in a right triangle that is the ratio of the length of the side opposite the angle to the length of the side adjacent to the angle.
2. A sudden digression or change of course: went off on a tangent during his presentation.
3. Music An upright pin in a keyboard instrument, especially in a clavichord, that rises to sound a string when a key is depressed and stops the string at a preset length to set the pitch.
Making contact at a single point or along a line; touching but not intersecting.
[Latin (līnea) tangēns, tangent-, touching (line), present participle of tangere, to touch; see tag- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
(click for a larger image)tangent
tan θ = a/b
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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