substances which affect the smell with pungent or fragrant odors, as musk, hartshorn, and essential oils, are called volatile substances, because they waste away on exposure to the atmosphere. Alcohol and ether are called volatile liquids for a similar reason, and because they easily pass into the state of vapor on the application of heat. On the contrary, gold is a fixed substance, because it does not suffer waste, even when exposed to the heat of a furnace; and oils are called fixed when they do not evaporate on simple exposure to the atmosphere.
Origin: F. Volatil, L. Volatilis, fr. Volare to fly, perhaps akin to velox swift, E. Velocity. Cf. Volley.