1 a : characterized by or subject to rapid or unexpected change
b : unable to hold the attention fixed because of an inherent lightness or fickleness of disposition
2 a : tending to erupt into violence : explosive
b : easily aroused
3 : readily vaporizable at a relatively low temperature
5 : flying or having the power to fly
Did You Know?
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.
Our financial advisor cautioned us to be conservative with our investments while the stock market was still volatile.
"A second round of testing has been ordered for a Massachusetts charter school where elevated levels of toxic chemicals were detected. … Initial testing … found high levels of petroleum and other volatile organic compounds." — The Associated Press, 8 July 2018
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to complete a synonym of volatile: i _ n _ s _ _ nt.VIEW THE ANSWER
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