1. <computer programming> volatile variable.

2. <storage> See non-volatile storage.

(01 Mar 1997)

1. Passing through the air on wings, or by the buoyant force of the atmosphere; flying; having the power to fly.

2. Capable of wasting away, or of easily passing into the aeriform state; subject to evaporation.

Substances which affect the smell with pungent or fragrant odors, as musk, hartshorn, and essential oils, are called volatile substances, because they waste away on exposure to the atmosphere. Alcohol and ether are called volatile liquids for a similar reason, and because they easily pass into the state of vapor on the application of heat. On the contrary, gold is a fixed substance, because it does not suffer waste, even when exposed to the heat of a furnace; and oils are called fixed when they do not evaporate on simple exposure to the atmosphere.

3. Light-hearted; easily affected by circumstances; airy; lively; hence, changeable; fickle; as, a volatile temper. "You are as giddy and volatile as ever." (Swift) Volatile alkali.

<chemistry> See Essential oils, under Essential.

Origin: F. Volatil, L. Volatilis, fr. Volare to fly, perhaps akin to velox swift, E. Velocity. Cf. Volley.

(01 Mar 1998)