volatile

Watch out when a situation becomes volatile — it is likely to change for the worse suddenly. You fight and then make up with your partner often if you two have a volatile relationship.

Volatile from Latin volatilis "fleeting, transitory" always gives the sense of sudden, radical change. Think of it as the opposite of stable. A person who is volatile loses his or her temper suddenly and violently. A volatile political situation could erupt into civil war. When the stock market is volatile, it fluctuates greatly. And in scientific language, a volatile oil evaporates quickly.

DEFINITIONS OF: volatile

1

n a volatile substance; a substance that changes readily from solid or liquid to a vapor

“it was heated to evaporate the volatiles
Type of:
substance
the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists

adj evaporating readily at normal temperatures and pressures

volatile oils”
volatile solvents”
Synonyms
inconstant
likely to change frequently often without apparent or cogent reason; variable
evaporable, vaporific, vaporizable, vapourific, vapourisable, volatilisable, volatilizable
(used of substances) capable of being volatilized
Antonyms:
nonvolatile, nonvolatilisable, nonvolatilizable
not volatilizing readily

adj liable to lead to sudden change or violence

“a volatile situation with troops and rioters eager for a confrontation”
Synonyms:
explosive
unstable
lacking stability or fixity or firmness

adj marked by erratic changeableness in affections or attachments

“a flirt's volatile affections”
Synonyms:
fickle
inconstant
likely to change frequently often without apparent or cogent reason; variable

adj tending to vary often or widely

volatile stocks”
volatile emotions”
Synonyms
changeable, changeful
such that alteration is possible; having a marked tendency to change
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