mercurial

adjective
mer·​cu·​ri·​al | \ (ˌ)mər-ˈkyu̇r-ē-əl How to pronounce mercurial (audio) \

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

Definition of mercurial (Entry 2 of 2)

: a pharmaceutical or chemical containing mercury

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Other Words from mercurial

Adjective

mercurially \ (ˌ)mər-​ˈkyu̇r-​ē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce mercurially (audio) \ 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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The mercurial veteran center seemed superfluous in Golden State. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "McGee aims to repeat role of unexpected Spurs killer," 15 Apr. 2018 Still, he is known as occasionally mercurial and particular about everything, including his rehabilitation. James Wagner, New York Times, "The Mets Are Missing Two Big Things: Wins and Yoenis Cespedes," 7 July 2018 Meanwhile, domineering, even mercurial male leaders are expected and accepted. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Women Will Never Truly Be Equal Until They're Allowed to Get Angry," 13 Feb. 2019 In one act, a mercurial and generous Jeff Bezos would bestow a city with riches beyond their imagination: an all-American tech company, tens of thousands of jobs, and $5 billion in investments. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, "The Verge 2018 tech report card: Amazon," 27 Dec. 2018 There has never been any concerted effort to use their leverage to hold Trump accountable, or try to mitigate the consequences of a venal and mercurial man holding the most powerful position in the world. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "Kavanaugh, the NYT op-ed, and the failure of Trump-skeptical Republicans," 7 Sep. 2018 Ray Emery, a talented but mercurial goaltender who played for four NHL teams over 11 seasons, drowned early Sunday while swimming at a yacht club in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Fox News, "Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns at age 35," 15 July 2018 Thanks to the sheer number of fashion weeks and the plethora of seasons, to say nothing of trends, fashion can seem mercurial. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "Vogue Runway Did a Ten-Year Fashion Challenge: Check Out the Results Here," 30 Jan. 2019 This vivid account of his roots and of his relentless, mercurial style also provides views of the invincible mogul in times of crisis. Les Hinton, WSJ, "Five Best: Les Hinton on the Giants of the Press," 28 Dec. 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.

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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

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Statistics for mercurial

Last Updated

18 May 2019

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Time Traveler for mercurial

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

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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 How to pronounce mercurial (audio) \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on mercurial

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mercurial

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mercurial

Spanish Central: Translation of mercurial

Nglish: Translation of mercurial for Spanish Speakers

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