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

b : fickle, inconstant

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

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 Attempts to test Tempest 4000 on a 144Hz monitor, both with variable refresh rate (VRR) enabled and disabled, led to the game clocking at a higher speed, as opposed to a higher frame rate with the same game timings. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Tempest 4000 finally lives after delays, legal threats—but what’s up on PC?," 17 July 2018 Rates for car loans and variable-rate mortgages are also likely to increase. Irina Ivanova, CBS News, "Federal Reserve hikes key interest rate another quarter-point," 13 June 2018 All are revolving loans with variable rates that are directly affected by the Fed’s move. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "How a Fed rate hike could impact credit cards, mortgages, savings rates," 13 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The detention process is complex, with many variables. David Begnaud, CBS News, "How Trump's immigration policy is playing out along the Texas border," 18 June 2018 This Fast Company article spoke to a statistician mom who carefully plotted all the variables relating to her daughter's sleep habits in order to figure out how to get her to sleep. Sarah Smith, Redbook, "There's an App for That ("That" Being Your Baby)," 18 Nov. 2013 Studying the effects of climate change is no longer about predicting variables sometime in the distant future. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Hurricane Florence will dump up to 50 percent more rainfall due to climate change," 13 Sep. 2018 For example, problems presented in combat, less-discernable nuances informing certain decisions, determining causation and the analysis of a range of different interwoven variables – are arguably things best performed by the human mind. Kris Osborn, Fox News, "Pentagon makes massive new AI push for tanks, ships, weapons, drones and networks," 19 July 2018 Mirza said rain was the biggest variable in the rescue. Billy Kobin, Indianapolis Star, "Hoosier cave diving experts: 'Never heard of anything' like Thailand rescue," 12 July 2018 But like bad weather, Brexit appears to be a variable that’s hard to predict. ‘‘While the storms of February and March have given way to sunnier skies, the economic outlook for the UK remains clouded by Brexit uncertainties,’’ Carney said. Pan Pylas, BostonGlobe.com, "After cold hits economy, UK central bank keeps rates steady," 10 May 2018 Much of the variation in vote choice cannot be explained by measurable variables. Matthew Green, Vox, "Election Day is over. Now who will lead Congress?," 12 Nov. 2018 The game featured a unique setup where human adventurers were paired with sentient, humanoid weapons known as blades, resulting in a combat system that required juggling lots of different characters and variables. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Nintendo’s new Xenoblade expansion eases players into the daunting world of RPGs," 21 Sep. 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

14 Dec 2018

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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