[ vair-ee-uh-buhl ]
See synonyms for: variablevariabilityvariably on

  1. apt or liable to vary or change; changeable: variable weather;variable moods.

  2. capable of being varied or changed; alterable: a variable time limit for completion of a book.

  1. inconstant; fickle: a variable lover.

  2. having much variation or diversity.

  3. Biology. deviating from the usual type, as a species or a specific character.

  4. Astronomy. (of a star) changing in brightness.

  5. Meteorology. (of wind) tending to change in direction.

  6. Mathematics. having the nature or characteristics of a variable.

  1. something that may or does vary or change; a variable feature or factor.

  2. Mathematics, Computers.

    • a quantity or function that may assume any given value or set of values.

    • a symbol that represents this.

  1. Logic. (in the functional calculus) a symbol for an unspecified member of a class of things or statements.: Compare bound variable, free variable.

  2. Astronomy. variable star.

  3. Meteorology.

    • a shifting wind, especially as distinguished from a trade wind.

    • variables, doldrums (def. 2a).

Origin of variable

First recorded in 1350–1400; late Middle English, from Latin variābilis, equivalent to vari(us) “speckled, variegate, diverse” + -ābilis adjective suffix; see various, -able

Other words for variable

Opposites for variable

Other words from variable

  • var·i·a·bil·i·ty [vair-ee-uh-bil-i-tee], /ˌvɛər i əˈbɪl ɪ ti/, var·i·a·ble·ness, noun
  • var·i·a·bly, adverb
  • hy·per·var·i·a·ble, adjective
  • hy·per·var·i·a·bly, adverb
  • non·var·i·a·ble, adjective
  • non·var·i·a·ble·ness, noun
  • non·var·i·a·bly, adverb
  • un·var·i·a·ble, adjective
  • un·var·i·a·ble·ness, noun
  • un·var·i·a·bly, adverb

Words that may be confused with variable Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use variable in a sentence

  • These two women knew and loved and trusted each other without a shadow of doubt or variableness.

    The Man Between | Amelia E. Barr
  • Is not that kind of variableness common to our poor human nature—independent of peacocks' feathers?

    Mount Royal, Volume 2 of 3 | Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • You are not solicitous about hours or days or months or years, the variableness of the weather or the change of seasons.

  • And a variable climate has, too, nothing to do with it, for what variableness could exceed an Alaska winter.

  • Perhaps the proximity or remoteness of their nests was the chief cause of this variableness in their behavior.

    Birds of the Rockies | Leander Sylvester Keyser

British Dictionary definitions for variable


/ (ˈvɛərɪəbəl) /

  1. liable to or capable of change: variable weather

  2. (of behaviour, opinions, emotions, etc) lacking constancy; fickle

  1. maths having a range of possible values

  2. (of a species, characteristic, etc) liable to deviate from the established type

  3. (of a wind) varying its direction and intensity

  4. (of an electrical component or device) designed so that a characteristic property, such as resistance, can be varied: variable capacitor

  1. something that is subject to variation

  2. maths

    • an expression that can be assigned any of a set of values

    • a symbol, esp x, y, or z, representing an unspecified member of a class of objects, numbers, etc: See also dependent variable, independent variable

  1. logic a symbol, esp x, y, z, representing any member of a class of entities

  2. computing a named unit of storage that can be changed to any of a set of specified values during execution of a program

  3. astronomy See variable star

  4. a variable wind

  5. (plural) a region where variable winds occur

Origin of variable

C14: from Latin variābilis changeable, from variāre to diversify

Derived forms of variable

  • variability or variableness, noun
  • variably, adverb

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

Scientific definitions for variable


[ vârē-ə-bəl ]

  1. A mathematical quantity capable of assuming any of a set of values, such as x in the expression 3x + 2.

  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.