In phonology/phonetics, refers to a sound made with air escaping over the (lowered) sides of the tongue. A standard example is the sound "l," as in "lily." That's an alveolar lateral, since the tongue is on the alveolar ridge in the palate. There are other places: some people pronounce it as a velar lateral, and so on.

In American football, a thrown ball that does not go forward on the field (see forward pass for rules on that) -- it may actually travel laterally across the field, or go in any direction between horizontal and straight backwards.

Unlike the forward pass, there are no rules on number of laterals that may be thrown or legal field position from which to throw a lateral. Laterals do not count for passing yards, and usually aren't recorded at all in the game's statistics.

A lateral not caught is a live ball and generally ruled a fumble, as opposed to an uncaught forward pass, which is always ruled incomplete and thus a dead ball. This makes the lateral somewhat more risky than the forward pass.

Some of the most controversial plays in football hinge on whether a thrown ball was a lateral or not. In the 1999-2000 playoffs, the Tennessee Titans' Music City Miracle victory over the Buffalo Bills depended on Frank Wycheck's throw to Kevin Dyson at the Tennessee 20 during the final kickoff return being ruled a lateral. Buffalo fans insist to this day that Wycheck actually threw a forward pass (which would have been illegal), although most replays indicated that the pass travelled straight along the 20, thus laterally.

Lat"er*al (?), a. [L. lateralis, fr. latus, lateris, side: cf.'eral.]


Of or pertaining to the sides; as, the lateral walls of a house; the lateral branches of a tree.

2. Anat.

Lying at, or extending toward, the side; away from the mesial plane; external; -- opposed to mesial.


Directed to the side; as, a lateral view of a thing.

Lateral cleavage Crystallog., cleavage parallel to the lateral planes. -- Lateral equation Math., an equation of the first degree. [Obs.] -- Lateral line Anat., in fishes, a line of sensory organs along either side of the body, often marked by a distinct line of color. -- Lateral pressure or stress Mech., a pressure or stress at right angles to the length, as of a beam or bridge; -- distinguished from longitudinal pressure or stress. -- Lateral strength Mech., strength which resists a tendency to fracture arising from lateral pressure. -- Lateral system Bridge Building, the system of horizontal braces (as between two vertical trusses) by which lateral stiffness is secured.


© Webster 1913.

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