Leakage inductance derives from the electrical property of an imperfectly-coupled transformer whereby each winding behaves as a self-inductance constant in series with the winding's respective ohmic resistance constant, these four winding constants also interacting with the transformer's mutual inductance constant. The winding self-inductance constant and associated leakage inductance is due to leakage flux not linking with all turns of each imperfectly-coupled winding.
The leakage flux alternately stores and discharges magnetic energy with each electrical cycle acting as an inductor in series with each of the primary and secondary circuits.
Leakage inductance depends on the geometry of the core and the windings. Voltage drop across the leakage reactance results in often undesirable supply regulation with varying transformer load. But it can also be useful for harmonic isolation (attenuating higher frequencies) of some loads.
Although discussed exclusively in relation to transformers in this article, leakage inductance applies to any imperfectly-coupled magnetic circuit device including especially motors.