General Question

_bob's avatar

Why do "flamable" and "inflamable" mean the same thing?

Asked by _bob (2485points) June 3rd, 2009

Any explanation?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

16 Answers

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

not sure, but then, there are a lot of words in English that don’t make a lot of sense. Why don’t HAVE and BEHAVE rhyme? Why is DISGRUNTLED bad, but no one claims to be GRUNTLED?

And in other languages, why does German have 12 words for the word THE?

_bob's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra That’s because “the” does not change with number and gender.

The book – Das Buch
The books – Die B├╝cher

Judi's avatar

How confusing it must be for someone to learn “There, Their and They’re.” English is my first language and I screw them up sometimes!

_bob's avatar

@Judi English is not my first language. I actually don’t confuse those :)

Harp's avatar

The prefix “in-” used this way is called an “intensifier” because it ramps up the meaning of the root adjective. So “inflammable” is “flammable” on steroids. “Invaluable” is another example of this usage.

gailcalled's avatar

Flamable and inflamable are not English words. _

It’s true that English has a lot of confusing homophones and irregularities. But it’s my language and I love its suppleness. Whether or not you agree is wholly your priviledge.

@bob: What’s your native tongue?

_bob's avatar

@gailcalled Spanish.

Also, hmpf for “not English words”.

_bob's avatar

@gailcalled Oh oh, and “priviledge” is not an English word either.

/me does a little dance

La_chica_gomela's avatar

In this case, “the prefix ‘in-’ is not the Latin negative prefix ‘in-’, which is related to the English ‘un-’ and appears in such words as indecent and inglorious. The ‘in-’ in inflammable is an intensive prefix that is derived from the Latin preposition ‘in’. This prefix also appears in the word enflame.”


So don’t blame it on English, blame it on Latin! ;-)

Harp, I expected better from you!

gailcalled's avatar

@bob:I JUST checked the spelling of both “privilege” and knowledge” before writing. Oh oh, indeed.

I blame it always on Milo, who is a pest. He is doing a little dance also.

cyn's avatar

@bob_ oh oh, I know spanish… :)
/me joins bob’s little dance

cyn's avatar

I think it’s spelled flammable and inflammable… ;)

Judi's avatar

@bob_ I like hanging out with people smarter than me :-)

Lightlyseared's avatar

inflammable does not, as is often thought, mean more flammable than flammable. Inflammable means literally capable of being inflamed (ie set on fire) in- prefix in this case meaning inside . The term flamable only really came in to popular ussage from the 1960’s onwards to replace flammable after people got confused between inflammable and non-inflammable resulting in some accidents (read horrific burns). It was felt flammable and non-flammable were less confusing terms.

julia999's avatar

Another one of these English oddities we all love.
Here’s an article that explains the history behind the two words:

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