AskDefine | Define volatile

Dictionary Definition

volatile adj
1 evaporating readily at normal temperatures and pressures; "volatile oils"; "volatile solvents" [ant: nonvolatile]
2 liable to lead to sudden change or violence; "an explosive issue"; "a volatile situation with troops and rioters eager for a confrontation" [syn: explosive]
3 marked by erratic changeableness in affections or attachments; "fickle friends"; "a flirt's volatile affections" [syn: fickle]
4 tending to vary often or widely; "volatile stocks"; "volatile emotions" n : a volatile substance; a substance that changes readily from solid or liquid to a vapor; "it was heated to evaporate the volatiles"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. evaporating or vaporizing readily under normal conditions
  2. (informal) explosive
  3. In the context of "of a price etc": variable or erratic
  4. fickle
  5. temporary or ephemeral
  6. In the context of "of a situation": potentially violent

Derived terms


evaporating or vaporizing readily under normal conditions
(informal) explosive
(of a price etc) variable or erratic
temporary or ephemeral
(of a situation) potentially violent



  1. volatile (Chemistry, Physics)
  2. flying



  1. bird


Extensive Definition

Volatile means something changing or changeable. It can refer to:
In general:
In economics:
In chemistry:
  • Volatility (chemistry), a measure of the tendency of a substance to vaporize. It has also been defined as a measure of how readily a substance vaporizes.
  • Volatiles, a group of compounds with low boiling points that are associated with a planet's or moon's crust and/or atmosphere
  • Volatile liquids, liquid with a high vapor pressure or low boiling point
  • Volatile organic compounds, organic compounds that can evaporate at normal temperature and pressure, and are often regulated by governments
  • Volatile anaesthetics, a class of anaesthetics which evaporate easily
  • Volatile substance abuse, the abuse of household inhalants containing volatile compounds
  • Volatile oil, also known as essential oil, an oil derived from plants with aromatic compounds used in cosmetics and flavoring
  • Volatile acidity, a term used in winemaking to indicate an unacceptably high level of acid or vinegar and baking soda.
In computer science:
  • Volatile variables, variables that can be changed by an external process
  • Volatile memory, memory that lasts only while the power is on (and thus would be lost after a restart)
In geology:
  • Volatiles, the volatile compounds of magma (mostly water vapor) that affect the appearance and strength of volcanoes
Other uses:

See also

volatile in German: Volatile

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

adrift, afloat, agitable, airy, alternating, amorphous, birdbrained, birdwitted, bouncy, brittle, bubbly, buoyant, capricious, changeable, changeful, charged, coquettish, corruptible, deciduous, desultory, deviable, dizzy, downy, dying, eccentric, edgy, effervescent, ephemeral, erratic, eruptive, ethereal, evanescent, evaporable, evaporative, expansive, explosive, faddish, fading, fast and loose, featherbrained, feathery, fickle, fitful, fleeting, flickering, flighty, flippant, flirtatious, flitting, fluctuating, fluffy, fly-by-night, flying, foamy, fragile, frail, freakish, frivolous, frothy, fugacious, fugitive, giddy, gossamery, hair-trigger, impermanent, impetuous, imponderous, impulsive, inconsistent, inconstant, indecisive, infirm, insubstantial, irregular, irresolute, irresponsible, leger, light, light as air, light-minded, lighter than vanity, lubricious, mazy, mercurial, momentary, moody, mortal, mousse, mutable, nondurable, nonpermanent, passing, perishable, protean, quicksilver, rambling, resilient, restless, roving, scatterbrained, sensitive, shallow, shallow-headed, shallow-minded, shallow-pated, shallow-witted, shapeless, shifting, shifty, short-lived, shuffling, skittery, skittish, souffle, spasmodic, spineless, startlish, superficial, temperamental, temporal, temporary, tense, ticklish, toying, transient, transitive, transitory, unaccountable, uncertain, uncontrolled, undependable, undisciplined, undurable, unenduring, unfixed, unheavy, unpredictable, unprofound, unreliable, unrestrained, unsettled, unstable, unstable as water, unstaid, unsteadfast, unsteady, vacillating, vagrant, vaporable, vaporescent, vaporizable, vaporizing, variable, versatile, vicissitudinary, vicissitudinous, volatilizable, wandering, wanton, wavering, wavery, wavy, wayward, weightless, whimsical, wishy-washy, yeasty
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