Flammable or inflammable?

So your client has asked you to create some animation about their inflammable product. Does that mean that the product bursts into flames, or that it resists burning? Is the right word flammable or inflammable?

Flammable means burns readily or easily. But the term inflammable means exactly the same thing!

The original term was inflammable, as in “easily becomes inflamed,” but in the 1920s the National Fire Protection Association in the USA became concerned that people would think this meant “does not burn easily”. They encouraged people to use the more easily understood flammable. This is the term used in physics to describe a substance that catches fire or burns easily, such as gasoline.

If you’re not sure whether the substance burns easily or not, you can always ask!

Post Author: Michele Bousquet

Michele Bousquet is the author of Physics for Animators. A longtime animator, teacher, and writer, Michele has written more than 20 books on computer graphics. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from McGill University.