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 mercurial (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

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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 Arguably the most important bases—in The Philippines—are accessible only at the whim of that country’s mercurial president. David Axe, Forbes, 7 June 2021 Young crypto investors seem to be particularly mercurial. Connor Goodwin, WSJ, 21 May 2021 The difference now is that Saudi’s mercurial leader is willing to break the boundary of what was once deemed acceptable. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, 25 Mar. 2021 Your brain seems to be traveling two separate paths today, and even though this isn’t the most abnormal thing for your mercurial sign, the day's energy is going to be a little more complicated. Tarot Astrologers, chicagotribune.com, 22 May 2021 Tom Hiddleston is Loki, and he is burdened with glorious purpose: After playing Thor's puckish brother for over a decade in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, no one understands the mercurial Asgardian God of Mischief as well as the actor. Chancellor Agard, EW.com, 20 May 2021 And the mercurial Lord Farquad wouldn’t have such a square jaw and prominent browline without Katzenberg developing such vitriol for his former boss. Bethy Squires, Vulture, 19 May 2021 One was this mercurial ‘70s lizard king and the other one was a square, to use the vernacular of the time. Emily Zemler, Los Angeles Times, 2 Apr. 2021 Beijing’s policies on new coal power plants have also been highly mercurial in recent years. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, 26 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for mercurial

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

17 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mercurial.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mercurial. Accessed 20 Jun. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on mercurial

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mercurial

Nglish: Translation of mercurial for Spanish Speakers

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