Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Easily ignited and capable of burning rapidly; flammable. See Usage Note at flammable.
  • adj. Quickly or easily aroused to strong emotion; excitable.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Capable of burning; easily set on fire.
  • adj. Easily excited; set off by the slightest excuse; easily enraged or inflamed.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Capable of being easily set fire; easily enkindled; combustible.
  • adj. Excitable; irritable; irascible; easily provoked.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Capable of being set on fire; susceptible of combustion; easily fired.
  • Easily excited or inflamed; highly excitable.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. easily ignited

Etymologies

Middle English, liable to inflammation, from Medieval Latin īnflammābilis, from Latin īnflammāre, to inflame; see inflame.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin as if *inflammabilis, from inflammare ("to set on fire"), from in ("in, on") + flamma ("flame"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Robert Boyle had before 1671 dissolved iron in dilute hydrochloric acid and prepared what he described as the inflammable solution of Mars [Iron].

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  • Up until about 30 years ago flammable substances were often described as inflammable (as in the word 'inflame') but this was dangerous as sometimes people thought that inflammable meant

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  • But the fact is that the generation of these windy flames, or fiery winds as they may be called, arises from a conflict of two bodies of exactly opposite natures; the one being highly inflammable, which is the nature of sulphur, the other abhorring flame, as the crude spirit in niter.

    The New Organon

  • Ralph Touchett had praised his cousin for being morally inflammable, that is for being quick to take a hint that was meant as good advice.

    The Portrait of a Lady

  • Cavendish, made in 1766, that hydrogen gas, called inflammable air, is at least seven times lighter than atmospheric air.

    Up in the Clouds Balloon Voyages

  • Mr. Cavendish has shewn that the gas called inflammable air, is at least ten times lighter than common air;

    The Botanic Garden A Poem in Two Parts. Part 1: the Economy of Vegetation

  • I'm also nonplussed by "inflammable" and "flammable" which mean the same thing but look like they mean the opposite.

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  • I believe he points out elsewhere in the book that airlines are the very same people who believe us too witless to understand "inflammable".

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  • It was then, and is now, a place where the houses stood very thick and close together: all round were warehouses filled with oil, wine, tar, and every kind of inflammable stuff.

    The History of London

  • Aviation experts suspect Stack may have carried some kind of inflammable liquid in the plane, since the intensity of the explosion is inconsistent with the small amount of fuel such a plane could carry in its tank.

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Comments

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  • I think I read (a long, long time ago) in The Elements of Style that "flammable" was a word created for the safety of idiots and small children. His words, not mine.

    December 1, 2007

  • I like to call flame-retardant items "ininflammable". ;)

    October 30, 2007

  • Flammable and inflmmable both mean combustible. Although "inflammable" is the older, and some say the preferred, word (derived from "inflame,") "flammable" was adopted as the preferred word of caution on trucks, etc. because people began to think that something that was "in-flammable" must be "in-combustible!"

    Now isn't that funny?

    June 17, 2007