1. Present or potential but not evident or active: latent talent. See Synonyms at inactive.
2. Medicine Present but not symptomatic: a latent virus.
3. Biology Being in a condition of biological rest or inactivity characterized by cessation of growth or development and the suspension of many metabolic processes: a latent bud.
4. Psychology Present and accessible in the unconscious mind but not consciously expressed.
A fingerprint that is not apparent to the eye but can be made sufficiently visible, as by dusting or fuming, for use in identification.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin latēns, latent-, present participle of latēre, to lie hidden.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 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.