volatile

Watch out when a situation becomes volatile — it is likely to change for the worse suddenly. If you and your best friend have a volatile relationship, you frequently fight and make up.

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. adjective
    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
  2. adjective
    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
  3. adjective
    tending to vary often or widely
    volatile stocks”
    volatile emotions”
    Synonyms:
    changeable, changeful
    such that alteration is possible; having a marked tendency to change
  4. adjective
    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
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    Antonyms:
    nonvolatile, nonvolatilisable, nonvolatilizable
    not volatilizing readily
  5. noun
    a volatile substance; a substance that changes readily from solid or liquid to a vapor
    “it was heated to evaporate the volatiles
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    type of:
    substance
    the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists
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