Word: mercurial

Pronunciation: mər-KYOO-ree-əl

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s another word I learned from the Elevate – Brain Training app. Like other words featured in past Word of the Week entries, I picked this one up from the Pronunciation game, though I found it so interesting after reading it that I knew I had to look it up. Interestingly, I realized I had just learned a new word that I could use to describe myself; I’ve gone through so many changes of mind and mood in my life that I could easily be considered “mercurial”!

A “mercurial” person is someone who’s prone to unpredictable or sudden changes of mind or mood. The word arose in late Middle English in the sense “of the planet Mercury” and comes from the Latin adjective mercurialis, meaning “relating to the god Mercury”. This adjective stems from the proper noun Mercurius, the Latin name of the Roman god Mercury. The current definition dates from the mid 17th century.

As its Latin root suggests, aside from its main definition, the word “mercurial” also relates to Mercury, both in the sense “of or containing the element mercury” and the sense “of the planet Mercury” (this latter case should be capitalized because it refers to a proper noun). The word can also function as a noun to mean “a drug or other compound containing mercury”. Note that as a synonym for “volatile” and “temperamental”, “mercurial” should be used in a negative sense. If your characters are constantly changing their minds (or if you write about any of the different “Mercuries”), “mercurial” could be a great word to include in your stories!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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