1

variable

play
adjective var·i·able \ ˈver-ē-ə-bəl \
Updated on: 26 Jul 2017

Definition of variable

1 a :able or apt to vary :subject to variation or changes
  • variable winds
  • variable costs
2 :characterized by variations
3 :having the characteristics of a variable
4 :not true to type :aberrant used of a biological group or character

variability

play \ˌver-ē-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun

variableness

play \ˈver-ē-ə-bəl-nəs\ noun

variably

play \-blē\ adverb

Examples of variable in a Sentence

  1. The winds were light and variable.

  2. The loan has a variable interest rate.

Recent Examples of variable from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of variable

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Late Latin variābilis "changeable," from Latin variāre "to make changeable, vary" + -ābilis -able


2

variable

noun

Definition of variable

1 a :a quantity that may assume any one of a set of values
b :a symbol representing a variable
2 a :something that is variable
b :a factor in a scientific experiment that may be subject to change

Examples of variable in a Sentence

  1. unemployment and other economic variables

Recent Examples of variable from the Web

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

First Known Use of variable

1816


Financial Definition of VARIABLE

variable

What It Is

Variability is the degree to which a data series deviates from its mean (or in the accounting world, how much a budgeted value differs from an actual value).

How It Works

For example, let's say Company XYZ stock has the following prices:

The average of these prices is $21.33. To calculate the variance, we see how "far away" each day's stock price is from $21.33, like this:

Notice that some of the differences are negative. Because we're going to calculate the average difference, the negative numbers create a mathematical problem (they'll offset the positive numbers and screw up the calculation). To avoid this, we square each difference so that each difference is positive, like this:

The last step is simply calculating the average of those squared differences, which is $9.42, and then taking the square root of that number to get the amount by which Company XYZ stock tends to vary from its average price.

The square root is $3.07, meaning that when Company XYZ deviates from that $21 average, it tends to do so by about $3.07.

Why It Matters

This is only one way to measure variability. Beta, regression analysis, and many other statistical methods are designed to figure out just how volatile a data series is. Variability is a measure of volatility and thus a measure of risk, because it measures how much something like a stock tends to deviate from its "usual" value. The higher the variability, the more wildly the stock fluctuates when it fluctuates. Accordingly, the higher the variability, the riskier the stock.


VARIABLE Defined for English Language Learners

variable

play
adjective

Definition of variable for English Language Learners

  • : able or likely to change or be changed : not always the same


variable

noun

Definition of variable for English Language Learners

  • : something that changes or that can be changed : something that varies

  • mathematics : a quantity that can have any one of a set of values or a symbol that represents such a quantity


VARIABLE Defined for Kids

1

variable

play
adjective var·i·able \ ˈver-ē-ə-bəl \

Definition of variable for Students

1 :able to change :likely to be changed :changeable
  • a variable climate
2 :having differences
3 :different from what is normal or usual

variably

\-blē\ adverb

2

variable

noun

Definition of variable for Students

1 :something that changes or can be changed
2 :a symbol (as x or *) used in mathematics in the place of a numeral :placeholder

Medical Dictionary

1

variable

play
adjective vari·able \ ˈver-ē-ə-bəl, ˈvar- \

medical Definition of variable

1 :able or apt to vary :subject to variation or changes
  • allergy is perhaps the most variable of all diseases
  • —H. G. Rapaport & Shirley Linde
2 :characterized by variations
3 :not true to type :aberrant used of a biological group or character

variability

play \ˌver-ē-ə-ˈbil-ət-ē, ˌvar-\ noun plural -ties

2

variable

noun

medical Definition of variable

:something that is variable


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to curse or denounce

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Merriam-Webster's New Words Quiz—Fall 2017 Edition!

  • young-plant-shoots
  • Which of the following is a new sense of the word bunny?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

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!