Definitions

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

  • adj. Capable of doing many things competently.
  • adj. Having varied uses or serving many functions: "The most versatile of vegetables is the tomato” ( Craig Claiborne).
  • adj. Variable or inconstant; changeable: a versatile temperament.
  • adj. Biology Capable of moving freely in all directions, as the antenna of an insect, the toe of an owl, or the loosely attached anther of a flower.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Capable of doing many things competently.
  • adj. Having varied uses or many functions.
  • adj. Changeable or inconstant.
  • adj. Capable of moving freely in all directions.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Capable of being turned round.
  • adj. Liable to be turned in opinion; changeable; variable; unsteady; inconstant.
  • adj. Turning with ease from one thing to another; readily applied to a new task, or to various subjects; many-sided.
  • adj. Capable of turning; freely movable

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In ichthyology, capable of being turned either way: describing a spine, a tooth, or any organ that may not be usually so turned.
  • Capable of being moved or turned round: as, a versatile spindle.
  • Changeable; variable; unsteady; inconstant.
  • Turning with ease from one thing to another; readily applying one's self to a new task, or to various subjects; many-sided: as, a versatile writer; a versatile actor.
  • In botany, swinging or turning freely on a support: especially noting an anther fixed by the middle on the apex of the filament, and swinging freely to and fro. See cuts under anther and lily.
  • In ornithology, specifically, reversible: noting any toe of a bird which may be turned either forward or backward.
  • In entomology, moving freely up and down or laterally: as, versatile antennæ.

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

  • adj. able to move freely in all directions
  • adj. having great diversity or variety
  • adj. changeable or inconstant
  • adj. competent in many areas and able to turn with ease from one thing to another

Etymologies

Latin versātilis, from versātus, past participle of versāre, to turn; see wer-2 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin versātilis ("turning easily"), from versātus, past participle of versō ("I turn, change"), frequentative of vertō ("I turn"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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Comments

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  • OED2 (1989) claims it also means "bisexual" (or "both homosexual and heterosexual, as they put it), listing two examples:

    1959 C. MACINNES Absolute Beginners 64 No one..cares..if you're boy, or girl, or bent, or versatile, or what you are.

    1960 M. SPARK Ballad Peckham Rye iii. 32 Dougal was probably pansy. ‘I don't think so... He's got a girl somewhere.’ ‘Might be versatile.’

    If it did indeed mean this, it was apparently short-lived.

    September 11, 2010