[ vol-uh-tl, -til or, especially British, -tahyl ]
See synonyms for: volatilevolatilenessvolatility on Thesaurus.com

  1. evaporating rapidly; passing off readily in the form of vapor: Acetone is a volatile solvent.

  2. tending or threatening to break out into open violence; explosive: a volatile political situation.

  1. changeable; mercurial; flighty: a volatile disposition.

  2. (of prices, values, etc.) tending to fluctuate sharply and regularly: volatile market conditions.

  3. fleeting; transient: volatile beauty.

  4. Computers. of or relating to storage that does not retain data when electrical power is turned off or fails.

  5. able to fly or flying.

  1. a volatile substance, as a gas or solvent.

Origin of volatile

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English, from Latin volātilis, equivalent to volāt(us) “flown,” past participle of volāre “to fly” + -ilis -ile

Other words for volatile

Other words from volatile

  • vol·a·til·i·ty [vol-uh-til-i-tee], /ˌvɒl əˈtɪl ɪ ti/, vol·a·tile·ness, noun
  • non·vol·a·til·i·ty, noun
  • sem·i·vol·a·tile, adjective
  • un·vol·a·tile, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use volatile in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for volatile


/ (ˈvɒləˌtaɪl) /

  1. (of a substance) capable of readily changing from a solid or liquid form to a vapour; having a high vapour pressure and a low boiling point

  2. (of persons) disposed to caprice or inconstancy; fickle; mercurial

  1. (of circumstances) liable to sudden, unpredictable, or explosive change

  2. lasting only a short time: volatile business interests

  3. computing (of a memory) not retaining stored information when the power supply is cut off

  4. obsolete flying or capable of flight; volant

  1. a volatile substance

  2. rare a winged creature

Origin of volatile

C17: from Latin volātīlis flying, from volāre to fly

Derived forms of volatile

  • volatileness or volatility (ˌvɒləˈtɪlɪtɪ), 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

Scientific definitions for volatile


[ vŏlə-tl ]

  1. Changing easily from liquid to vapor at normal temperatures and pressures. Essential oils used in perfumes are highly volatile.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.