in·​de·​ter·​mi·​nate ˌin-di-ˈtər-mə-nət How to pronounce indeterminate (audio)
: not definitely or precisely determined or fixed : vague
: not known in advance
: not leading to a definite end or result
: having an infinite number of solutions
a system of indeterminate equations
: being one of the seven undefined mathematical expressions {latex}\frac{0}{0}, \frac{\infty}{\infty}, \infty \cdot 0, 1^{\infty}, 0^{0}, \infty^{0}, \infty - \infty{/latex}
: characterized by sequential flowering from the lateral or basal buds to the central or uppermost buds
also : characterized by growth in which the main stem continues to elongate indefinitely without being limited by a terminal inflorescence compare determinate sense 4
indeterminately adverb
indeterminateness noun
indetermination noun

Did you know?

When you determine something, you decide on what it is, which means you put limits or boundaries on its identity. So something indeterminate lacks identifying limits. A mutt is usually the product of indeterminate breeding, since at least the father's identity is generally a mystery. A painting of indeterminate origins is normally less valued than one with the painter's name on it. And if negotiations are left in an indeterminate state, nothing has been decided.

Example Sentences

an indeterminate number of people
Recent Examples on the Web Guo took Schell to a series of meetings with two officials of indeterminate portfolio. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, 17 Oct. 2022 In the time that had passed since the 1950s, what had happened to Roy, this gentle person of indeterminate gender without a family or relationships who mowed lawns for a living and loved church, animals, and country music? Lauren Leblanc,, 18 Aug. 2022 In George Bernard Shaw’s 1928 play The Apple Cart, a satire set in an indeterminate future, a British prime minster and his Cabinet blackmail the king into giving up the crown’s remaining prerogatives. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 14 Sep. 2022 Some vegetables need space, and indeterminate tomatoes require a large cage. Jenny Krane, Better Homes & Gardens, 10 Aug. 2022 Plastic bags and mattresses and garbage and fishing nets in which large squidlike creatures were entangled could be seen floating on the river, along with odd-looking substances of an indeterminate color. Ben Okri, The New Yorker, 12 Sep. 2022 Elba speaks with a slight accent of indeterminate origin. Mark Feeney,, 24 Aug. 2022 On its current, indeterminate course, the Mar-a-Lago investigation is pushing the American politics back to obsessing over Mr. Trump and his endless enemies, such as the primary-election defeat of his Inspector Javert, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, 17 Aug. 2022 The plants are indeterminate and can be ready for harvest in as little as 60 days (for transplants) to 105 days (for seeds). Andrea Beck, Better Homes & Gardens, 10 Aug. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'indeterminate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English indeterminat, from Late Latin indeterminatus, from Latin in- + determinatus, past participle of determinare to determine

First Known Use

1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of indeterminate was in 1603

Dictionary Entries Near indeterminate

Cite this Entry

“Indeterminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



in·​de·​ter·​mi·​nate ˌin-di-ˈtərm-(ə-)nət How to pronounce indeterminate (audio)
: not clearly or exactly decided : vague
indeterminate plans
: not leading to a clear end or result
indeterminately adverb
indeterminateness noun

Medical Definition



in·​de·​ter·​mi·​nate ˌin-di-ˈtərm-(ə-)nət How to pronounce indeterminate (audio)
: relating to, being, or undergoing indeterminate cleavage
an indeterminate egg

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