# tangent

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Related to go off at a tangent: tangentially

## tangent

tangent, in mathematics. 1 In geometry, the tangent to a circle or sphere is a straight line that intersects the circle or sphere in one and only one point. For other curves and surfaces the tangent line at a given point P is defined as the limiting position, if such a limit exists, of a secant line through P and another point P′ on the curve or surface as P′ is allowed to approach P. The tangent plane to a surface at a point is the plane in which every line in the plane that passes through the point is a tangent line to the surface at that point. The study of tangent lines and planes usually requires the concepts of the calculus and is included within the scope of differential geometry. 2 A trigonometric function. See trigonometry.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

## Tangent

a trigonometric function. Its abbreviation is tan. The tangent of an acute angle in a right triangle is the ratio of the leg opposite the angle to the leg adjacent to the angle.

## tangent

[′tan·jənt]
(mathematics)
A line is tangent to a curve at a fixed point P if it is the limiting position of a line passing through P and a variable point on the curve Q, as Q approaches P.
The function which is the quotient of the sine function by the cosine function. Abbreviated tan.
The tangent of an angle is the ratio of its sine and cosine. Abbreviated tan.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

## tangent

Of lines, curves, and surfaces: meeting at a single point and having, at that point, the same direction.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

## tangent

1. a geometric line, curve, plane, or curved surface that touches another curve or surface at one point but does not intersect it
2. (of an angle) a trigonometric function that in a right-angled triangle is the ratio of the length of the opposite side to that of the adjacent side; the ratio of sine to cosine
3. Music a part of the action of a clavichord consisting of a small piece of metal that strikes the string to produce a note
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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