1) ADJ-GRADED You can describe something as unstable if it is likely to change suddenly, especially if this creates difficulty or danger.

After the fall of Pitt in 1801 there was a decade of unstable government...

The situation is unstable and potentially dangerous.

2) ADJ-GRADED Unstable objects are likely to move or fall.

Both clay and sandstone are unstable rock formations.

3) ADJ-GRADED If people are unstable, their emotions and behaviour keep changing because their minds are disturbed or upset.

He was emotionally unstable...

Coleridge was also a highly unstable person.


English dictionary. 2008.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Unstable — Un*sta ble, a. [Cf. {Instable}.] Not stable; not firm, fixed, or constant; subject to change or overthrow. {Un*sta ble*ness}, n. Chaucer. [1913 Webster] {Unstable equilibrium}. See {Stable equilibrium}, under {Stable}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • unstable — index aleatory (uncertain), capricious, dangerous, ephemeral, faithless, fallible, inconsistent, indefi …   Law dictionary

  • unstable — early 13c., apt to move, from UN (Cf. un ) (1) not + STABLE (Cf. stable) (adj.). Cf. M.H.G. unstabel. Meaning liable to fall is recorded from c.1300; sense of fickle is attested from late 13c. An O.E. word for this was feallendlic, which might… …   Etymology dictionary

  • unstable — *inconstant, fickle, capricious, mercurial Analogous words: *changeable, variable, mutable, protean: volatile, effervescent, buoyant, resilient, *elastic Antonyms: stable …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • unstable — is the standard negative form of stable, but the corresponding noun is instability, not un . See in and un …   Modern English usage

  • unstable — / unsteady [adj] doubtful, weak ambiguous, borderline, capricious, changeable, dizzy, dubious, erratic, fickle, fitful, fluctuating, giddy, inconsistent, inconstant, insecure, irrational, lubricious, mercurial, mobile, movable, moving, mutable,… …   New thesaurus

  • unstable — ► ADJECTIVE (unstabler, unstablest) 1) prone to change or collapse; not stable. 2) prone to psychiatric problems or sudden changes of mood …   English terms dictionary

  • unstable — [unstā′bəl] adj. [ME] not stable; specif., a) not fixed, firm, or steady; easily upset or unbalanced b) changeable; variable; fluctuating c) unreliable; fickle d) emotionally unsettled e) Chem. tending to decompose or change into other compounds …   English World dictionary

  • unstable — UK [ʌnˈsteɪb(ə)l] / US adjective 1) an unstable person becomes angry or upset often and very suddenly My father wasn t a bad man, but he was emotionally unstable. 2) an unstable government changes often and must deal with a lot of fighting and… …   English dictionary

  • unstable — un|sta|ble [ʌnˈsteıbəl] adj 1.) likely to change suddenly and become worse →↑instability ▪ The political situation is still very unstable. ▪ an unstable relationship 2.) something that is unstable is likely to move or fall 3.) someone who is… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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