Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

Topic: MATHS

Date: 1500-1600
Language: Latin
Origin: , present participle of tangere; TANGIBLE

tangent

noun
     
tan‧gent [countable]
1

go off at a tangent

British English, go off on a tangent American English informal to suddenly start thinking or talking about a subject that is only slightly related, or not related at all, to the original subject:
Let's stay with the topic and not go off at a tangent.
2 technicalHM a straight line that touches the outside of a curve but does not cut across it
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