Volatility Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

Volatility is a critical concept to understand in the stock market. Volatility refers to how much the price of a security varies over time. It is one of the primary factors that can influence your investment strategy. Understanding this concept will help you make better trading decisions, whether you’re buying or selling stock — or even just thinking about whether to buy or sell at all. 

This is everything you need to know about what volatility is, how it works in the modern world, and why it is essential to understand! 

What Is Volatility? 

Volatility is a measure of the amount of uncertainty in the stock market. Market volatility can be evaluated through standard deviation, which measures the variation in a data set from its average value over a period of time. The higher the standard deviation or volatility, the greater the chance that prices will fall or rise sharply compared to previous price changes.

The word volatility is derived from the Latin word volatilis, which means “that can fly.” The present meaning of volatility as a measure of price variation is a relatively new development in its history.

Standard deviation is essential to understand when analyzing stocks or other investments because it helps you determine how risky investment might be based on historical price changes and identifies periods where stocks may have been overvalued or undervalued.

Historically there has been no direct correlation between high volatility and poor performance over a long period (e.g., five years or more). Still, low historical volatility does not guarantee future returns either — it indicates only that returns and losses are likely less extreme than they were during periods with higher historical volatility levels. 

Price volatility can be measured using different ranges or bins — tools used to identify and quantify price movements in an organized way. A bin is basically a range of prices that share similar characteristics (for example, they could be all within $10). The higher the number of bins on the x-axis (or horizontal axis), the more detailed your analysis will be. 


Some popular synonyms for the word volatility include: 

  • Fluctuations
  • Risk
  • Unpredictability
  • Mutable
  • Strained

Can Volatility Be Measured? 

The definition of volatility is a statistical measure of the dispersion of returns for a given security or market index. In other words, it measures how much prices can change over time.

Stock market volatility can be measured in many ways. The most common measure is the standard deviation which measures the dispersion of a set of data from its mean. In other words, it measures how spread the data points are around their average value. This can be calculated for any given number (e.g., stock prices over three months). 

Because of this, measures of volatility can be used in some trading strategies. It’s a measure of how much the price of an asset fluctuates over time. It’s usually expressed either as a percentage or an implied probability.

The primary value of volatility is when trading can help predict future market movements. For example, suppose you see that the price of an asset tends to rise or fall wildly from one day to the next.

In that case, there’s probably going to be another significant change in its value soon — and you might want to invest based on what seems like impending volatility (or sell off your current holdings).

What Is the Volatility Index? 

The Cboe Volatility Index or VIX is a measure of the implied volatility of the stock market. A low VIX means that investors are feeling calm right now, but a high VIX can indicate fear in the market. The current value of the VIX depends on two things: how much time has passed since its last update and how volatile stocks have been lately.

The VIX considers data from all stocks in the S&P 500 index and provides a way to quantify investor sentiment at any given time. It’s calculated using options contracts on those companies’ stocks and their implied volatility — or how volatile those options are thought to be over time.

Using the volatility index can help you make accurate estimations about the future volatility of a stock option in a volatile market, whether in the long or short term. The market price of stocks can occasionally be riskier than others, so ensure you’re well educated and don’t lose money to dramatic decreases in value. This can significantly help with asset allocation when the stock market is reaching a boiling point. 

Why Does Volatility Matter? 

Volatility is a measure of risk. The more volatile something is, the greater its risk. Volatility can be used to determine future prices and also predicts future price movements. High volatility is generally considered bad for investment, while low volatility is considered to be prime investing time. 

Because of this, knowing how to use volatility in your investing strategy can give you an edge in protecting your portfolio during times of market turmoil or making sure it grows as fast as possible during more stable periods. 


Our blog here at The Word Counter aims to provide people with practical tips and tools for expanding their communication skills. Think of our articles as an extension of the service we provide through our website — an opportunity for deeper exploration into improving your language skills! 

We hope that our blog can help you in your journey of increasing your communication capabilities. And don’t forget: we’re always glad to help personally if you need some aid along the way! Check out our latest articles, and see where that knowledge can take you in your life! 


Volatile Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com

VOLATILITY | Cambridge English Dictionary

Volatility From the Investor’s Point of View | Investopedia