January 07, 2019
volatile (adjective)
\VAH-luh-tul\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : easily becoming a vapor at a fairly low temperature2 : likely to change suddenly or quickly
How do you use it?
Mr. Stanham was a volatile man, one minute very proper and composed, the next minute wild and rude.
Are you a word wiz?

"Volatile" comes from the Latin verb "volare," which refers to something birds do. What do you think "volare" means?

When a volatile person flies off the handle, he or she is making a connection with "volare," the Latin ancestor of "volatile." That Latin verb means "to fly," and it gave rise to several Latin, French, and English words associated with birds or flight, including the Latin word "volatilis" (meaning "winged"). French speakers respelled "volatilis" as "volatile"; English speakers learned the word from them. "Volatile" originally named winged things (like birds) or other things that could fly (like vapors). Over time, people started using it to refer to other vapor-like things -- like hot, changeable tempers.
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