• synonyms


[met-uh-stey-buh l, met-uh-stey-]
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  1. Metallurgy. chemically unstable in the absence of certain conditions that would induce stability, but not liable to spontaneous transformation.
  2. Also labile. Physics, Chemistry. pertaining to a body or system existing at an energy level (metastable state) above that of a more stable state and requiring the addition of a small amount of energy to induce a transition to the more stable state.
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Origin of metastable

First recorded in 1895–1900; meta- + stable2
Related formsmet·a·sta·bil·i·ty [met-uh-stuh-bil-i-tee] /ˌmɛt ə stəˈbɪl ɪ ti/, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for metastable

Historical Examples

  • It's a metastable state at best, all too likely to collapse into tyranny.

    The Sensitive Man

    Poul William Anderson

  • To this fact van't Hoff attributes the great permanence of many really unstable (or metastable) carbon compounds.

  • This law explains the formation of the metastable forms of monotropic substances, which would otherwise not be obtainable.

  • At any point outside this area, monoclinic sulphur can exist only in a metastable condition.

  • Two of these solutions, however, would be metastable and supersaturated with respect to the decahydrate.

British Dictionary definitions for metastable


  1. (of a body or system) having a state of apparent equilibrium although capable of changing to a more stable state
  2. (of an atom, molecule, ion, or atomic nucleus) existing in an excited state with a relatively long lifetime
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  1. a metastable atom, ion, molecule, or nucleus
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Derived Formsmetastability, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012