volatile

adjective
vol·​a·​tile | \ ˈvä-lə-tᵊl How to pronounce volatile (audio) , especially British -ˌtī(-ə)l \

Definition of volatile

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : characterized by or subject to rapid or unexpected change a volatile market
b : unable to hold the attention fixed because of an inherent lightness or fickleness of disposition
2a : tending to erupt into violence : explosive a volatile temper
b : easily aroused volatile suspicions
3 : readily vaporizable at a relatively low temperature
4 : difficult to capture or hold permanently : evanescent, transitory
5 : flying or having the power to fly

volatile

noun

Definition of volatile (Entry 2 of 2)

: a substance that is readily vaporizable at relatively low temperature : a volatile substance

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Other Words from volatile

Adjective

volatileness noun

The History of Volatile Is for the Birds

Adjective

Volatile was originally for the birds - quite literally. Back in the 14th century, volatile was a noun that referred to birds (especially wild fowl) or other winged creatures, such as butterflies. That's not as flighty as it sounds. Volatile traces back to the Latin verb volare, which means "to fly." By the end of the 16th century, people were using volatile as an adjective for things that were so light they seemed ready to fly. The adjective was soon extended to vapors and gases, and by the early 17th century, volatile was being applied to individuals or things as prone to sudden change as some gaseous substances. In recent years, volatile has landed in economic, political, and technical contexts far flown from its avian origins.

Examples of volatile in a Sentence

Adjective I am beginning to hear investors say that the best way to beat this volatile market is by trading—anxiously moving in and out of securities as the market ebbs and flows. In my view there is no surer path to the poorhouse. — John W. Rogers, Jr., Forbes, 25 May 2009 Usually, only a few of the volatile chemicals in a fragrance are obviously noticeable to human noses. — Ivan Amato, Science News, 24 Sept. 2005 VOCs (or volatile organic compounds) are thought to be among the potential culprits behind illnesses often lumped under the heading of Sick Building Syndrome. — Scott Schilling, This Old House, March 2005 … it was Elvis who represented rock and roll at its unblushing, volatile best; he was its first master and the embodiment of every reason that adolescents of the postwar years turned to it in favor of the cheerfully torpid pop music … to which their parents were listening. — David Hajdu, New York Review of Books, 9 Oct. 2003 When left unused, make-up has a tendency to dry out because any water or other volatile substances it contains evaporate. — Barry Fox, New Scientist, 9 Aug. 2003 The stock market can be very volatile. She is a volatile woman. The protests are increasing, creating a volatile situation in the capital.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective But the value of bitcoin is volatile and moves hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the course of a week. CBS News, "Bitcoin surges past $20,000, topping previous peak — 3 years ago," 18 Dec. 2020 Always the bad boy of Vanderpump Rules, Taylor, whose real name is Jason Michael Cauchi, has only seen his relationships become more volatile over his years on the show. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, "Original Vanderpump Rules star Jax Taylor, wife Brittany leaving show," 5 Dec. 2020 Mark Howerton of Tyler was tried for murder last year in the 2017 death of Cayley Mandadi, a Trinity University freshman who was involved in a volatile relationship with Howerton. Elizabeth Zavala, ExpressNews.com, "High-profile criminal cases in Bexar County likely won’t be heard until after January," 28 Nov. 2020 The couple appear to have been involved in a volatile relationship, according to court records. Robert Gearty, Fox News, "Florida detective finds 'most gruesome crime scene ever' at couple's murder-suicide," 19 Oct. 2020 Financial markets become more volatile and increasingly difficult to trade. Charles Riley, CNN, "Trump's diagnosis adds to toxic cocktail of uncertainty that's damaging the economy," 4 Oct. 2020 But some analysts also caution that prices for industrial metals could become more volatile because a key source of liquidity will be absent during the coming stretch. Amrith Ramkumar, WSJ, "Copper Rises After Upbeat Chinese Economic Data," 30 Sep. 2020 And investors can trade options on the direction of the VIX itself, making a bet on whether the market will become more or less volatile. Kevin Voigt, Star Tribune, "How the pros ride market volatility — and why you shouldn't," 5 Sep. 2020 Sometimes, a wine may taste fine initially, but smoke-taint compounds can become volatile as a result of fermentation or aging, revealing themselves later. Esther Mobley, SFChronicle.com, "Wildfire smoke is already risking nearly all of one Sonoma winemaker's 2020 wines," 25 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Though the team could not say which volatiles were present, there was reason to hope that water might be one of them. Remy Tumin, New York Times, "Coronavirus, Olympics, Canned Tomatoes: Your Tuesday Evening Briefing," 24 Mar. 2020 The organic molecules and volatiles, comparable to samples of sedimentary rock rich in organics on Earth, included thiophenes, methylthiophenes methanethiol and dimethylsulfide. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "The Curiosity rover found organic molecules on Mars. This is why they're exciting," 6 Mar. 2020 Beyond the snowline, these volatiles condensed into giant gas-balls. The Economist, "How the planets got their spots," 18 Dec. 2019 The spacecraft also discovered volatiles like chlorine, sulfur, sodium and potassium on the planet, according to The Times, signifying that Mercury has a complex origin story. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "Small Yet Mighty Mercury Still Holds Many Mysteries," 9 Nov. 2019 To explain this depletion, scientists suggest the massive amount of energy and heat generated from the giant impact may have driven volatiles from the fragments of the proto-moon. Erica Jawin, Scientific American, "Apollo’s Bounty: The Science of the Moon Rocks," 2 July 2019 The evidence that plants can somehow perceive these volatiles and respond with a defense response is also very good. Quanta Magazine, "The Secret Language of Plants," 16 Dec. 2013 The moon then coalesced from the disk—a scenario that can explain the moon’s large mass and dearth of water and other volatiles. Simon J. Lock, Scientific American, "When Earth and the Moon Were One," 2 July 2019 Dryness: The lunar samples proved to be extremely dry and almost entirely depleted of volatiles—elements or molecules with low boiling points that easily evaporate, such as water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and hydrogen. Erica Jawin, Scientific American, "Apollo’s Bounty: The Science of the Moon Rocks," 2 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'volatile.' 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 volatile

Adjective

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Noun

1686, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for volatile

Adjective and Noun

French, from Latin volatilis, from volare to fly

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Time Traveler for volatile

Time Traveler

The first known use of volatile was in 1605

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Statistics for volatile

Last Updated

15 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Volatile.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/volatile. Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for volatile

volatile

adjective
How to pronounce volatile (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of volatile

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: likely to change in a very sudden or extreme way
: having or showing extreme or sudden changes of emotion
: likely to become dangerous or out of control

volatile

noun

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

technical : a chemical or compound that changes into a gas easily

volatile

adjective
vol·​a·​tile | \ ˈvä-lə-tᵊl How to pronounce volatile (audio) \

Kids Definition of volatile

1 : easily becoming a gas at a fairly low temperature volatile solvents
2 : likely to change suddenly a volatile temper

volatile

noun
vol·​a·​tile | \ ˈväl-ət-ᵊl, especially British -ə-ˌtīl \

Medical Definition of volatile

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a volatile substance

volatile

adjective

Medical Definition of volatile (Entry 2 of 2)

: readily vaporizable at a relatively low temperature

Other Words from volatile

volatility \ ˌväl-​ə-​ˈtil-​ət-​ē How to pronounce volatile (audio) \ noun, plural volatilities

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Comments on volatile

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