adjective ver·sa·tile \ ˈvər-sə-tᵊl , especially British -ˌtī(-ə)l \
|Updated on: 10 Aug 2018

Definition of versatile

1 : embracing a variety of subjects, fields, or skills; also : turning with ease from one thing to another
2 : having many uses or applications
  • versatile building material
3 : changing or fluctuating readily : variable
  • a versatile disposition
4 a (1) : capable of turning forward or backward : reversible
  • a versatile toe of a bird
(2) : capable of moving laterally and up and down
  • versatile antennae
b of an anther : having the filaments attached at or near the middle so as to swing freely


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. OlsenNatural HistoryMay 2008
  2. Linemen have to be nimble, corners physical and linebackers versatile. —Peter KingSports Illustrated22 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 BesaSaveurDecember 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. CunninghamScience News15 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 AmatoFortune14 June 2004
  6. She is a versatile athlete who participates in many different sports.

  7. A pocketknife is a versatile tool.

Recent Examples of versatile from the Web

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

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

VERSATILE Defined for English Language Learners


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 : able to do many different kinds of things
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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excessive admiration or flattery

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