Scientists Say: Potential energy

When an object has energy due to its position, it has a special name


Pulling an arrow back to shoot it gives the arrow potential energy.  

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Potential energy (noun, “Po-TEN-shul EN-ur-gee”)

The energy an object has due to its position or condition. When a ball is at the top of a ramp, it has potential energy — the energy involved in rolling down again.

In a sentence

Right before you shoot an arrow out of a bow, the arrow has a lot of potential energy.

Power Words

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potential energy  The energy held by an object due not to its motion but instead to its position or condition (such as being held motionless by an brake or suspended from a wire). Examples of objects possessing this type of energy include a compressed spring, a mass of snow on a hillside (think of its capacity to create an avalanche) and a slab of meat hanging from a hook in a refrigerated locker.

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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