variable

adjective
var·​i·​able | \ ˈver-ē-ə-bəl \

Definition of variable

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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

variable

noun

Definition of variable (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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Other Words from variable

Adjective

variability \ ˌver-​ē-​ə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē \ noun
variableness \ ˈver-​ē-​ə-​bəl-​nəs \ noun
variably \ -​blē \ adverb

Examples of variable in a Sentence

Adjective

The winds were light and variable. The loan has a variable interest rate.

Noun

unemployment and other economic variables
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

California, for example, has set a target of zero net carbon emissions by 2045, deploying aggressive policies to encourage electric cars, rooftop solar power, and batteries on the power grid to store variable renewable energy. Umair Irfan, Vox, "World leaders are working out a climate deal in Poland — despite Trump," 14 Dec. 2018 And instead of gears, continuously variable transmissions use chains to provide an infinite number of ratios, allowing maximum efficiency in power delivery. Blake Z. Rong, Popular Mechanics, "10 Innovations That Made the Modern Car," 4 Dec. 2018 And if it’s not called in October 2023, its variable rate could yield more than 7% based on current three-month Libor plus its 4.32 percentage-point spread. Eric Uhlfelder, WSJ, "Preferred Stocks Beckon If Interest Rates Behave," 9 Dec. 2018 Integrating high levels of variable renewables is already creating challenges for grids like California’s. David Roberts, Vox, "Clean energy technologies threaten to overwhelm the grid. Here’s how it can adapt.," 30 Nov. 2018 Apart from the corners, the new iPad Pro display is substantially the same as last year’s Pro, with Apple’s extremely smooth 120Hz ProMotion variable refresh rate system, True Tone automatic color calibration, and wide color support. Nilay Patel, The Verge, "Apple iPad Pro review 2018: the fastest iPad is still an iPad," 5 Nov. 2018 So each one -- each variable alone is in itself powerful. Fox News, "Trumpism vs. socialism? DeSantis, Gillum face off in Florida," 29 Aug. 2018 Lacking its own base of deposits, the company borrows money at variable rates from banks to then lend to recent graduates. Peter Rudegeair, WSJ, "Losses Pile Up at Fintech Firm SoFi as Rates Rise," 11 Nov. 2018 Parents and students should be wary of using private student loans, since those typically come with variable rates and fewer consumer protections. Liz Weston, The Seattle Times, "Why your kid should help pay for college," 27 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

There would be too many variables to control, and this made the foreseeable stress level not worth the tasty reward. Lorraine Allen, Good Housekeeping, "My Child Has a Severe Allergy, But I Secretly Ate Her Forbidden Food Anyway," 20 Dec. 2018 There’s even no longer a luggage price matrix to reference on Spirit’s website because there are too many variables on an individual’s flight itinerary that must be calculated. Kristen Leigh Painter, Condé Nast Traveler, "How Air Travel Will Change in 2019," 13 Dec. 2018 There are so many variables that can make a difference in the outcome of the twist out style that many long time naturalistas don’t even know. Tiffany Dodson, SELF, "7 Mistakes You’re Making When Doing a Twist Out," 13 Sep. 2018 Because there are so many variables, Blitzer recommends finding a doctor who is extremely familiar with the procedure and starting with small doses, increasing the level of toxin as needed. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, "The radio man without a voice," 15 June 2018 As for the coaching, well, there are far too many variables for Brown vs. Stevens to be a zero sum thing. David Murphy, Philly.com, "From Jayson Tatum to Brad Stevens' coaching, an inconvenient loss for Sixers on many levels | David Murphy," 7 May 2018 From the size of the phone to the resolution of its screen to the software its running, there are just too many variables, and a fluctuation in any one of them can and will ruin the whole experience. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Why Samsung's $100 VR Headset Is a Huge Deal," 25 Sep. 2015 The questionnaire is designed with 120 variables including bathtub installation, additional shelving, and whether a wall needs to come down. Sara Rodrigues, House Beautiful, "This Renovation Start-Up Wants To Deliver Your New Bathroom To You," 17 Dec. 2018 With so many variables affecting a race, the only thing to expect is the unexpected. John Smallwood, Philly.com, "Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch have dominated, but Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season far from over," 30 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of variable

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

1816, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for variable

Adjective

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

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Learn More about variable

Statistics for variable

Last Updated

12 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for variable

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

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More Definitions for variable

variability

noun

Financial Definition of variability

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.

Source: Investing Answers

variable

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of variable

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

variable

noun

English Language Learners Definition of variable (Entry 2 of 2)

: 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

adjective
var·​i·​able | \ ˈver-ē-ə-bəl \

Kids Definition of variable

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

Other Words from variable

variably \ -​blē \ adverb

variable

noun

Kids Definition of variable (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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variable

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

Medical Definition of variable

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

Other Words from variable

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

variable

noun

Medical Definition of variable (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that is variable

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Comments on variable

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