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.

Examples of indeterminate in a Sentence

an indeterminate number of people
Recent Examples on the Web The state asked the judge to give Baker a judgment of one year fixed and two years indeterminate in prison — and then suspend that sentence and place the defendant on probation. Sally Krutzig, Idaho Statesman, 8 May 2024 The sentence was lighter than the prosecution’s request of four years fixed, 11 years indeterminate. Sally Krutzig, Idaho Statesman, 1 May 2024 The story detailed how false positives, false negatives and indeterminate results can have painful consequences for expecting parents. Anna Clark, ProPublica, 30 Apr. 2024 Her most characteristic tone is beguilingly indeterminate: a new kind of song pleasure, mixing distance and intimacy. Nick Bowlin, Harper's Magazine, 24 Mar. 2024 Its protagonist, The Kid (also known as Kid or Kidd), is a bisexual man of indeterminate age who arrives alone at the fictional midwestern city of Bellona and tries to make a life there. Ilana Masad, The Atlantic, 11 Apr. 2024 Don’t tell my furry friend of indeterminate origin and mysterious heritage, but French Bulldogs are the most popular dog breed in the United States, according to American Kennel Club rankings released Wednesday. Melissa Locker, Southern Living, 21 Mar. 2024 Jonathan Betts shared his unlikely discovery — more than 20 bones of an at-first indeterminate mammal — with his followers on TikTok, and his videos have since garnered nearly 1.5 million views. Anna Lazarus Caplan, Peoplemag, 22 Jan. 2024 Rather than a potent cacophony of indeterminate extractions that build a solid wall of bitter, nonalcoholic bitters are mellow, with more discernible notes. Allison Robicelli, Washington Post, 3 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'indeterminate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 25 May. 2024.

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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