A force for which the work done on an object as it moves from an initial to final position is independent of the path followed is called a conservative force. For example, consider tossing a ball straight up. Kinetic energy is transformed into gravitational potential energy, and the ball has the potential to transform this energy back into kinetic energy, and it does so as the ball falls back down.
A force for which the work is not independent of the path is called a nonconservative force. Friction, for example, is not path-independent, and is a nonconservative force. You cannot recover the kinetic energy lost to friction as a box slides to a halt; there is no "potential" that can be transformed back into kinetic energy.