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la-tenda | \ ˈlā-tᵊnt \\

Definition of latent (item 1 of 2)

Present and capable of emerging or developing but not now visible, obvious, active or symptomatic

latent infection

latent noun

la-tenda | \ ˈlā-tᵊnt \\

Definition of latent (item 2 of 2)

a fingerprint (like at a crime scene) that is not very visible but can be developed for the study

– also known as latent fingerprint, latent fingerprintOther words from latent


latent adverb

synonyms and opposites for latent

Synonyms: Adjective:

dead, dormant, fallow, free, inactive, inactive, inoperative, dormant, unused, vacant

Antonio: Adjective

Active, alive, busy, working, in operation, in progress, alive, in operation, operational, operational, in operation, working

Choosing the right synonym for latent


LATENT, SLEEPING, QUIET, POTENTIAL means no more signs of activity or existence. LATENT applies to a power or quality that has not yet manifested itself but can emerge and develop. a Latent desire for success SLEEPING suggests the inactivity of something (such as a feeling or power) as if it were asleep. their passion was latent QUESCENT suggests a temporary cessation of activity. disease was dormant POTENTIAL applies to what does not yet have existence or effect but is likely to have it soon. a potential disaster 

Examples of latent in a sentence


On the ground in Afghanistan there is a certain latent, if cautious, gratitude for American aid over the years, but no one expects to build the foundations for the fall of the Taliban on a couple of million rice cakes.

– Michael Duffy, Time, October 15, 2001

There were still such inexhaustible possibilities before her, such opportunities to bring out the latent graces of the old place, without a single irreverent touch of alteration, that the winter months were too short to plan what spring and autumn would perform.

– Edith Wharton, Afterwards, 1910…

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Recent examples on the Web: Adjective

Despite the strong latent interest, the lack of know-how and on-boarding requirements for US brokerage firms represented a barrier to potential independent middle-class investors.

– Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Africa, “Fintech startups are making it easier for Nigerian millennia to invest in US equities”, January 16, 2020

This latent anxiety, from an experienced political guru cheering Trump on to win a second term, is no small concern.

– David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, “Red Meat Electoral Diet”, January 9, 2020

These sample sentences are automatically selected from various online news sources to reflect current use of the word “latent”. The opinions expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its publishers. Please send us feedback.

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First known use of latent


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1920, in the sense defined above

History and etymology for latent

Adjective and noun

Middle English, from latent Latin, latens, from the current participle of latēre to lie hidden; similar to the Greek lanthanein to escape attention


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