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From Biology-Online Dictionary
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1. (Science: mathematics) a number, letter, or any quantity written on the right hand of and above another quantity, and denoting how many times the latter is repeated as a factor to produce the power indicated.

thus a^2 denotes the second power, and a^n the xth power, of a (2 and x being the exponents). A fractional exponent, or index, is used to denote the root of a quantity. Thus, a^1/3 denotes the third or cube root of a.

2. One who, or that which, stands as an index or representative; as, the leader of a party is the exponent of its principles. Exponent of a ratio, the quotient arising when the antecedent is divided by the consequent; thus, 6 is the exponent of the ratio of 30 to 5.

Origin: L. Exponens, -entis, p. Pr. Of exponere to put out, set forth, expose. See Expound.