There are many words that often tend to confuse us and one of these is flammable and inflammable. These words are generally written to caution people against the risk of fire. We usually see these words on vehicles carrying items such as petrol, diesel, kerosene, LPG, propane, etc. So, why do some warning signs have the term ‘flammable’ whereas others have ‘inflammable’? Do these words mean the same or is there a difference? Well, to answer such questions and to clear the confusion, here are some things you need to know.
Inflammable – This is the original word that was used to describe things that could catch fire easily. The origin of this word can be traced back to the 15th century. It is derived from the word inflame, wherein the prefix ‘in’ comes from the Latin prefix ‘en’. The ‘en’ prefix means to be a cause or encouragement for something. So inflame means something that can easily catch fire.
However, many people think of inflammable as an item that cannot catch fire. The use of ‘in’ prefix causes confusion, as in normal usage most words with ‘in’ prefix mean something negative. For example, words like indestructible, inescapable, invisible, inactive, etc. This prompts them to think that inflammable means something that does not catch fire and flammable means something that catches fire.
However, the fact is that flammable and inflammable mean the same thing – items that can easily catch fire.
Flammable – To ensure that people don’t get confused, the National Fire Protection Association directed that the word ‘flammable’ be used instead of inflammable. However, since not everyone is following the directive, people and organizations continue to use both terms.
Another common misinformation is that inflammable is something that catches fire instantly whereas flammable is something that needs to be heated to catch fire. Thinking on these lines, some people consider gasoline as inflammable whereas other products such as kerosene and diesel are tagged as flammable. However, such classification is a mistake because inflammable and flammable mean one and the same thing.
As is clear from the above facts, flammable and inflammable essentially mean the same. So, anywhere you notice these words, make sure you are following the recommended safety guidelines. Also, spread the word among your family and friends, so that they too can clear their confusion over flammable vs. inflammable. Safety is first priority, so it’s always better to be aware of the risks involved and properly understand the meaning of safety signs.