Flammable vs. inflammable

 

Q:

Doesn't inflammable mean the same thing as flammable?

David
natdavid@aol.com

A:

Yes, flammable and inflammable mean the same thing: "easily ignited and capable of burning rapidly," according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Houghton Mifflin, 1996).

This dictionary also gives this useful note on p.690:

Historically, flammable and inflammable mean the same thing. However, the presence of the prefix in- has misled many people into assuming that inflammable means "not flammable" or "noncombustible." …it is therefore advisable to use only flammable in contexts imparting warnings or on product labels, where a misinterpretation might have more serious consequences for the reader than an etymological mistake would deserve.

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