Difference between "flammable" and "inflammable"?

is there any conceptual difference? thanks


myckyg: pls dont bother.

Umm Hi: i think both easily burn! but i'd like to know if there is a difference

21 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    No difference whatsoever.

    Blame it on Latin and its tricky prefixes. In the beginning, there was "inflammable," a perfectly nice English word based on the Latin "inflammare," meaning "to kindle," from "in" (in) plus "flamma" (flame). "Inflammable" became standard English in the 16th century. So far, so good.

    Comes the 19th century, and some well-meaning soul dreamt up the word "flammable," basing it on a slightly different Latin word, "flammare," meaning "to set on fire." There was nothing terribly wrong with "flammable," but it never really caught on. After all, we already had "inflammable," so "flammable" pretty much died out in the 1800's.

    "But wait," you say, "I saw 'flammable' just the other day." Indeed you did. "Flammable" came back, one of the few successful instances of social engineering of language.

    The Latin prefix "in," while it sometimes means just "in" (as in "inflammable"), more often turns up in English words meaning "not" (as in "invisible" -- "not visible"). After World War Two, safety officials on both sides of the Atlantic decided that folks were too likely to see "inflammable" and decide that the word meant "fireproof," so various agencies set about encouraging the revival of "flammable" as a substitute. The campaign seems to have worked, and "inflammable" has all but disappeared.

    That left what to call something that was not likely to burst into flames, but here the process of linguistic renovation was easier. "Non-flammable" is a nice, comforting word, and besides, it's far easier on the tongue than its now thankfully obsolete precursor, "non-inflammable."

  • 1 decade ago

    Wow, 18 answers and nobody has got it right yet! I wouldn't normally look at answering a question with so many answers given already, but this one is quite important.

    Flammable means it will burn if you apply a light to it

    Inflammable means it is liable to start burning even if you don't apply a light.

    Not everything that is flammable is inflammable.

    The word inflammable has caused much confusion, as witnessed by several of your wrong answers above. Some people think it means it won't burn. This is a real problem when you start labelling things as inflammable. There is a serious risk of accident. So much so that standards organisations have now started recommending that "inflammable" should no longer be used on hazard warning labels,so as to protect the ignorant. Darwin is defeated!

  • 1 decade ago

    Flammable is where something will burn very easily and very quickly and can catch light extremely quickly - ie, if someone wears a flammable nightie and stands too close to the fire, it will burst into flames before they know it.

    Inflammable actually means the same thing - although that word is rarely used now, because it is easily mistaken for meaning that something will not burn as easily.

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    great question madhavi:) yOU know though these words sound synonimous but still there lies a "deep" difference !! Happiness can be found of things which may not even be beneficial to our spiritual or psychological aspect like we may go out & have our favourite dish & clothes etc., we would feel happy. But satisfaction comes from a kind of achievent, if we get good grades in studies we would get a positive feeling that says "hard word paid off" now thats more beneficial isn't it ;p[ Now peace.... I think it depends on what attitude we adopt towads the "activities" we do for "happiness" or either "satisfaction", peace actually exist in our self, it just has to be found by us. A person of ignorance might feel peace while a hard worker could be strresed. It can be even oposite to that . So peace needs to found by us.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Used interchangeably to mean the same thing. The more recent trend has been to use "flammable" again, as those with a limited grasp of the English language think that "in" means "not", which it doesn't in this context.

  • 1 decade ago

    There is no difference. Both will burn and burn well. Clothing manufacturers are no longer using the word inflammable because the suffix 'in' can give the impression that it won't burn. People would dress their kids in 'inflammable' pyjamas and let them stand by the fire to warm up.

  • 1 decade ago

    There's no difference. 'Inflammable' is the older word, but some people found it confusing, 'cos the they thought the two letters 'in' at the front might have meant that something 'inflammable' couldn't be burnt. So makers of 'inflammable' items started to leave out the first two letters in order to make the meaning obvious.

    Source(s): Oxford English Dictionary
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Flammable usually means reasonably highly combustible, it will burn easily.

    Inflammable usually means the item is fire resistant and will not ignite and burn easily. These items are often treated chemically with some sort of combustible retardant that will make it difficult to burn.

  • 1 decade ago

    Be careful! Gasoline is labeled with both words. People who try to be smart and funny say that flammable means gasoline will burn, and inflammable means gasoline will not burn. I'm for people being less of a grammar snob, and more careful with gasoline.

  • 1 decade ago

    Inflammable and flammable are the same in contemporary usage. Although the words have slightly differing meanings in reality, they are largely interchangeable in the vernacular.

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