Definition of variable in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈverēəb(ə)l/


1Not consistent or having a fixed pattern; liable to change: the quality of hospital food is highly variable awards can be for variable amounts
More example sentences
  • Local weather patterns are highly variable, and only long-term changes in averages have any significance.
  • The menopause is an event that tends to be highly variable in timing and pattern.
  • All eligible members will get a fixed allocation of 185 shares and a variable amount based on the length of time they have held their policies and the sum invested.
1.1(Of a wind) tending to change direction.
Example sentences
  • The weather was scattered low clouds, light and variable winds, with thunderstorms in the area.
  • In their quest to achieve good results, competitors faced the challenges of not only the large number of boats, but strong tides and variable wind conditions.
  • On another day, light and variable winds, combined with strong tides, affected competition.
1.2 Mathematics (Of a quantity) able to assume different numerical values.
Example sentences
  • By examining the limits of sums, products and quotients of variable quantities, Mengoli was setting up the basic rules if the calculus thirty years before Newton and Leibniz.
  • He extended the applications of the operational method to linear ordinary differential equations with variable coefficients.
  • He replaced the differential operator d/dx by a variable p transforming a differential equation into an algebraic equation.
1.3 Botany & Zoology (Of a species) liable to deviate from the typical color or form, or to occur in different colors or forms.
Example sentences
  • The Canada Goose is a highly variable species which has long caused headaches for taxonomists.
  • Barycrinus rhombiferis is also the most morphologically variable species of Barycrinus, possessing a wide array of polymorphic characters.
  • In each of these studies the material assigned to Dellea was interpreted as representing one long-ranging and rather highly variable species.
2Able to be changed or adapted: the drill has variable speed
More example sentences
  • The arrows are metal-tipped and made of carbon, with a shaft diameter of up to 9.3mm and of a variable length depending on the archer.
  • All centrifuges have the capability to tilt at various angles and spin at infinitely variable speeds.
  • As an example, we like to think of the English language as infinitely variable and rich.
2.1(Of a gear) designed to give varying ratios or speeds.
Example sentences
  • Thanks to a continuously variable transmission, throttle response is very linear as gear ratios are always optimized for the available engine power and road conditions.
  • Japan's leading maker of continuously variable transmissions is gearing up for a big increase in sales over the next five years.
  • The invention of variable gearing enabled bicyclists and cars alike to change the speed of peak efficiency.


1An element, feature, or factor that is liable to vary or change: there are too many variables involved to make any meaningful predictions
More example sentences
  • Understand that in college admissions, grades are only one of the many variables that are factored into the selection process.
  • Ball trajectory into a bunker can determine the outcome of a lie in a bunker, and this factor interacts with other variables already mentioned.
  • Indeed, when you factor out variables like having children, the wage gap virtually disappears.
factor, element, ingredient, quantity, unknown quantity, condition
1.1 Mathematics A quantity that during a calculation is assumed to vary or be capable of varying in value.
Example sentences
  • Perhaps his most important contribution was to the calculus of several variables.
  • In addition to his work in set theory, he did groundbreaking work in measure theory, the theory of real variables, and game theory.
  • Many of these mathematicians turned to other topics such as topology, differential equations, and functions of a complex variable.
1.2 Computing A data item that may take on more than one value during the runtime of a program.
Example sentences
  • The application may make copies of the data in local program variables, but it is not required.
  • The stereotypical assumption is like the default value assigned to a variable in a computer program.
  • A given variable can contain any data type of any length and can then have data of any type and length reassigned to it without producing an error.
1.3 Astronomy short for variable star.
Example sentences
  • The variable stars in the above image are RR Lyrae variables, single stars that pulsate with periods of about half a day.
  • Brownlee is an expert on comets and space dust; Szkody is an authority on binary star systems called cataclysmic variables.
  • The study of variable stars, or just variables, as they are known - is extremely important for understanding the stellar life-cycle.
1.4 (variables) The region of light, variable winds to the north of the northeast trade winds or (in the southern hemisphere) between the southeast trade winds and the westerlies.



Example sentences
  • The variableness of possible partners only serves to increase the risk of sexual activity.
  • The only uncertainty attending the success of coal mining in the coal measure area, is in the variableness of the deposit.


Pronunciation: /ˈverēəblē/
Example sentences
  • Jonson and Wroth interacted socially, and Jonson is variably referred to as both Wroth's mentor and her patron.
  • Leaf nitrogen has been shown to respond variably following defoliation.
  • The evidence is that the powers have been exercised variably by different police forces, which have often taken different approaches to the proper use of the 1994 Act and its offences.


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin variabilis, from variare (see vary).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: var·i·a·ble

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