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 show follows — very loosely — the origin story of Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) and her ever-changing relationship with the mercurial but genuinely lovable Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) in pre-revolutionary Russia. Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, "Your Favorite Quarantine Binge Is Coming Back For An Even Wilder Second Season," 2 July 2020 Los Angeles, the top seed in the Western Conference, considered a deal with the mercurial Smith in February, shortly before the NBA froze when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "Former Cavaliers guard JR Smith receiving interest from Los Angeles Lakers," 24 June 2020 Survivor Talk series timed to the season 20 finale was mysteriously canceled as rumors swirled around the band’s mercurial ways. Dalton Ross, EW.com, "The Dragonz reunite for first new track in 10 years: 'Thru the Fire'," 23 June 2020 Robert FitzRoy was an aristocratic but mercurial naval captain. National Geographic, "Darwin's first—and only—trip around the world began a scientific revolution," 11 June 2020 Others wonder if a mercurial American president might be tempted to take dramatic steps concerning Taiwan to put fresh meat on the bones of his increasingly anti-China stance in the run-up to November elections. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, "How China’s heavy steps in Hong Kong reverberate in Taiwan," 12 June 2020 In theory, McConnell could have quietly encouraged the more endangered or principled members of his caucus to assert their independence in the face of an incompetent and dangerously mercurial president. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Mitch McConnell Is No Genius," 10 June 2020 There has always been something mercurial about Ferrara as a filmmaker, with a hustler’s restlessness and a poet’s attention. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Willem Dafoe brings quiet grace to Abel Ferrara’s ‘Tommaso’," 5 June 2020 Christo, who spoke almost no English, was mercurial, passionate, and implacable. Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker, "A Tribute to Christo’s Unforgettable Art Works," 2 June 2020

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

10 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mercurial.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mercurial. Accessed 5 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for mercurial

mercurial

adjective
How to pronounce mercurial (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mercurial

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mercurial

Spanish Central: Translation of mercurial

Nglish: Translation of mercurial for Spanish Speakers

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