adjective ver·sa·tile \ˈvər-sə-təl, especially British -ˌtī(-ə)l\

Definition of versatile

  1. 1 :  changing or fluctuating readily :  variable a versatile disposition

  2. 2 :  embracing a variety of subjects, fields, or skills; also :  turning with ease from one thing to another

  3. 3a (1) :  capable of turning forward or backward :  reversible a versatile toe of a bird (2) :  capable of moving laterally and up and down versatile antennaeb of an anther :  having the filaments attached at or near the middle so as to swing freely

  4. 4 :  having many uses or applications versatile building material


play \ˈvər-sə-təl-(l)ē, -ˌtī(-ə)l-lē\ adverb


play \ˈvər-sə-təl-nəs, -ˌtī(-ə)l-nəs\ noun

Examples of versatile in a sentence

  1. Horses stand apart because of their versatile roles in human society, which came to include dairy production, transportation, haulage, plowing, sports, warfare, religion, and status. —Sandra L. Olsen, Natural History, May 2008

  2. Linemen have to be nimble, corners physical and linebackers versatile. —Peter King, Sports Illustrated, 22 Dec. 2008

  3. Adobos are the Philippines' most beloved, and most versatile, dishes. They consist of meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables (such as okra and eggplant) slow-cooked in an aromatic broth of vinegar or coconut milk, garlic, black pepper, bay leaves, and, sometimes, soy sauce until virtually all the liquid has evaporated. —Amy Besa, Saveur, December 2008

  4. This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to three scientists for their work on a versatile strategy for synthesizing all manner of novel chemical compounds in an environmentally friendly way.  … The three scientists focused on a reaction called metathesis … —A. Cunningham, Science News, 15 Oct. 2005

  5. Within weeks [Gerd] Binnig, then 38 and with an infant daughter, worked with a colleague to build a prototype for what has become one of the most versatile scientific tools ever created: the atomic force microscope, or AFM. —Ivan Amato, Fortune, 14 June 2004

  6. She is a versatile athlete who participates in many different sports.

  7. A pocketknife is a versatile tool.

Origin and Etymology of versatile

borrowed from Latin versātilis “able to turn, operated by turning, capable of turning to different tasks,” from versāre “to keep turning” (frequentative of vertere “to turn”) + -tilis, suffix with the sense “characterized by, obtained by” — more at 1worth

First Known Use: 1605

VERSATILE Defined for English Language Learners


adjective ver·sa·tile \ˈvər-sə-təl, especially British -ˌtī(-ə)l\

Definition of versatile for English Language Learners

  • : able to do many different things

  • : having many different uses

VERSATILE Defined for Kids


adjective ver·sa·tile \ˈvər-sə-təl\

Definition of versatile for Students

  1. 1 :  able to do many different kinds of things

  2. 2 :  having many uses a versatile tool

Word Root of versatile

The Latin word vertere, meaning “to turn” or “to change,” and its form versus give us the roots vert and vers. Words from the Latin vertere have something to do with turning or changing. Anything versatile, or able to do or be used for many different things, can change its task easily. A vertebra is a bone in the spine that allows an animal to turn its head or body. To avert is to turn away. To divert is to turn aside onto a new path. To revert is to turn back to a former way of being.

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a brief usually trivial fact

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