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Flammable vs. Inflammable

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If you are stuck in the wilderness with nothing to help you survive except a box of matches, you will want to know which things you can use to build a fire. Some things burn easily, and some things do not. Flammable and inflammable are adjectives that say basically the same thing. But which is which? If you are really trapped in the wilderness, fighting for your own survival, adjectives might be the last thing on your mind. But if you are writing, especially in the context of physics, you will need to know the difference between these words.

In this article, I will compare inflammable vs. flammable. I will use each of these words in several example sentences to give you an idea how they appear in context.

Origin:

The word flammable originated in early 19th century: from Latin flammare, from flamma ‘a flame’. The word inflammable originated in early 17th century: from French, or from Latin inflammare.

Flammable as adjective:

The word flammable is used in English language as something that is easily set on fire.

The use of highly flammable materials in this area is very dangerous.

Inflammable as adjective:

Inflammable also means something that is easily set on fire.

These are highly inflammable materials.

One might think that the prefix –in has the effect of negating flammable, thereby describing something that is resistant to flames. This, however, is not the case.

Examples:

The factory received a safety citation for storing flammable chemicals too close to the welding booth.

The contents or aerosol cans can be extremely flammable, and it is best to keep them away from sources of heat.

The rules for the ethanol fleet were part a broader set of regulations issued Friday to make all tank cars that haul flammable liquids sturdier. –The Wall Street Journal

“Too Much Johnson,” which had been shot on highly inflammable nitrate stock, had apparently been lost to the ages. –The New York Times

Flammable or inflammable:

Is it flammable or nonflammable? Flammable and inflammable are both adjectives that mean easy to set on fire. Flammable is the standard term in the 21st century. Nonflammable is its opposite. Inflammable is a term that is best avoided because it creates ambiguity. Noninflammable is its opposite.

 

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