mercurial

adjective
mer·cu·ri·al | \ (ˌ)mər-ˈkyu̇r-ē-əl \

Definition of mercurial 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or born under the planet Mercury

2 : having qualities of eloquence, ingenuity, or thievishness attributed to the god Mercury or to the influence of the planet Mercury

3 : characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood a mercurial temper

4 : of, relating to, containing, or caused by mercury

mercurial

noun
mer·cu·ri·al | \ (ˌ)mər-ˈkyu̇r-ē-əl \

Definition of mercurial (Entry 2 of 2)

: a pharmaceutical or chemical containing mercury

Keep scrolling for more

Other words from mercurial

Adjective

mercurially \-ē-ə-lē \ adverb
mercurialness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for mercurial

Adjective

inconstant, fickle, capricious, mercurial, unstable mean lacking firmness or steadiness (as in purpose or devotion). inconstant implies an incapacity for steadiness and an inherent tendency to change. an inconstant friend fickle suggests unreliability because of perverse changeability and incapacity for steadfastness. performers discover how fickle fans can be capricious suggests motivation by sudden whim or fancy and stresses unpredictability. an utterly capricious critic mercurial implies a rapid changeability in mood. made anxious by her boss's mercurial temperament unstable implies an incapacity for remaining in a fixed position or steady course and applies especially to a lack of emotional balance. too unstable to hold a job

Did You Know?

Adjective

The Roman god Mercury ("Mercurius" in Latin) was the messenger and herald of the gods and also the god of merchants and thieves. (His counterpart in Greek mythology is Hermes.) He was noted for his eloquence, swiftness, and cunning, and the Romans named what appeared to them to be the fastest-moving planet in his honor. The Latin adjective derived from his name, mercurialis, meaning "of or relating to Mercury," was borrowed into English in the 14th century as "mercurial." Although the adjective initially meant "born under the planet Mercury," it came to mean also "having qualities of eloquence, ingenuity, or thievishness attributed to the god Mercury or the influence of the planet Mercury," and then "unpredictably changeable."

Examples of mercurial in a Sentence

Adjective

Few moments in English history have been more hungry for the future, its mercurial possibilities and its hope of richness, than the spring of 1603. —Adam Nicolson, God's Secretaries, 2003 Though you could see all three places in one day, each of them makes you want to stay or to keep returning to watch the effects of the changing weather and the mercurial Sicilian light. —Francine Prose, Atlantic, December 2002 Some scientists suggest that because manic-depressive patients are ever riding the bio-chemical express between emotional extremes, their brains end up more complexly wired and remain more persistently plastic than do the brains of less mercurial sorts. —Natalie Angier, New York Times, 12 Oct. 1993 Still grinning, still miming, he samba-ed across the floor … and started in on the dishes with a vigor that would have prostrated his mercurial cousin. —T. Coraghessan Boyle, Harper's, October 1987 the boss's mood is so mercurial that we never know how he's going to react to anything
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

That mercurial side of Trump is less likely to be experienced Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom Trump has been anticipating a sit-down for weeks. Zeke Miller, Washington Post, "Analysis: Trump’s questionable claims of success," 13 July 2018 Pinballing day in and day out with the mercurial Trump is not the best way to fulfill that latter duty. David Zurawik, baltimoresun.com, "Trump's TV messaging machine not looking quite so mighty these days," 12 July 2018 The 'best player on the other team' comment came with a laugh as a nod Stephenson's mercurial nature, highlighted by his clashes with LeBron James. Andrew Hussey, Indianapolis Star, "Lance Stephenson responds to Pacers president Kevin Pritchard comment," 6 July 2018 With many a surprise already in this World Cup, the mercurial forward is enjoying the possibility of his Red Devils taking home their first major international prize. SI.com, "'It's Good for Us': Eden Hazard Eyes World Cup Glory Following Portugal, Spain & Argentina Exits," 2 July 2018 The Europeans want assurances that if a supplemental agreement is reached, the United States will stay in the deal — a hard commitment for US officials to make given Trump’s mercurial nature. Peter Baker And Julie Hirschfeld Davis, BostonGlobe.com, "Macron will urge Trump to keep Iran nuclear deal," 24 Apr. 2018 Reed’s case is a little different from that of Peters and Harrison because of his mercurial rookie season. Clevis Murray, azcentral, "Motivated Davon Reed looking toward redemption year with Suns," 10 July 2018 The mercurial Switzerland star - whose national side were eliminated from the World Cup round of 16 by Sweden - has been strongly linked with a move to Anfield. SI.com, "Turkish Giants Galatasaray Intensify Pursuit of Stoke Star Ahead of Possible Summer Move," 6 July 2018 Just as unpredictable are the mercurial appearances of Feste, the clown (Eric Hissom). Hugh Hunter, Philly.com, "Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival's 'Twelfth Night': A hilarious tragedy on human frailty," 24 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mercurial.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of mercurial

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1676, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for mercurial

Adjective

see mercury

Noun

see mercury

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mercurial

Listen to Our Podcast about mercurial

Statistics for mercurial

Last Updated

7 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mercurial

The first known use of mercurial was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for mercurial

mercurial

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of mercurial

: changing moods quickly and often

: changing often : very changeable

: very lively and quick

mercurial

adjective
mer·cu·ri·al | \ (ˌ)mər-ˈkyu̇r-ē-əl \

Medical Definition of mercurial 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: of, relating to, containing, or caused by mercury mercurial salves

mercurial

noun

Medical Definition of mercurial (Entry 2 of 2)

: a pharmaceutical or chemical containing mercury the diuretic action of mercurials

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on mercurial

What made you want to look up mercurial? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

characteristic trappings or dress

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!