Origin of variable

1350–1400; late Middle English < Latin variābilis, equivalent to vari(us) various + -ābilis -able
Related formsvar·i·a·bil·i·ty, var·i·a·ble·ness, nounvar·i·a·bly, adverbhy·per·var·i·a·bil·i·ty, nounhy·per·var·i·a·ble, adjectivehy·per·var·i·a·bly, adverbnon·var·i·a·bil·i·ty, nounnon·var·i·a·ble, adjectivenon·var·i·a·ble·ness, nounnon·var·i·a·bly, adverbun·var·i·a·ble, adjectiveun·var·i·a·ble·ness, nounun·var·i·a·bly, adverb
Can be confusedboundary limit parameter variable (see synonym study at boundary) (see usage note at parameter)variable variant

Synonyms for variable

3. vacillating, wavering, fluctuating, unsteady, mercurial.

Antonyms for variable

1, 3. constant. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for variable

Contemporary Examples of variable

Historical Examples of variable

  • The variable (an audible) part of the roadway for an automobile.

  • Variable hyphenation of god(-)like has been preserved as in the original.


    William Dunlap

  • The answer has been as variable as the purpose of the questioners.

    Mountain Meditations

    L. Lind-af-Hageby

  • In all the variable years that followed she never saw the like of it again.

    Howards End

    E. M. Forster

  • Archaic and variable spelling and hyphenation are preserved.

    Browning's England

    Helen Archibald Clarke

British Dictionary definitions for variable



liable to or capable of changevariable weather
(of behaviour, opinions, emotions, etc) lacking constancy; fickle
maths having a range of possible values
(of a species, characteristic, etc) liable to deviate from the established type
(of a wind) varying its direction and intensity
(of an electrical component or device) designed so that a characteristic property, such as resistance, can be variedvariable capacitor


something that is subject to variation
  1. an expression that can be assigned any of a set of values
  2. a symbol, esp x, y, or z, representing an unspecified member of a class of objects, numbers, etcSee also dependent variable, independent variable
logic a symbol, esp x, y, z, representing any member of a class of entities
computing a named unit of storage that can be changed to any of a set of specified values during execution of a program
astronomy See variable star
a variable wind
(plural) a region where variable winds occur
Derived Formsvariability or variableness, nounvariably, adverb

Word Origin for variable

C14: from Latin variābilis changeable, from variāre to diversify
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

Word Origin and History for variable

late 14c., of persons, from Old French variable, from Latin variabilis "changeable," from variare "to change" (see vary). Of weather, seasons, etc., attested from late 15c.; of stars, from 1788.


"quantity that can vary in value," 1816, from variable (adj.). Related: Variably; variability.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

variable in Medicine


[vârē-ə-bəl, văr-]


Likely to change or vary; subject to variation; changeable.
Tending to deviate, as from a normal or recognized type; aberrant.
Having no fixed quantitative value.


Something that varies or that is prone to variation.
A quantity that is capable of assuming any of a set of values.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

variable in Science



A mathematical quantity capable of assuming any of a set of values, such as x in the expression 3x + 2.
A factor or condition that is subject to change, especially one that is allowed to change in a scientific experiment to test a hypothesis. See more at control.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.