in·​de·​ter·​mi·​nate | \ ˌin-di-ˈtərm-nət How to pronounce indeterminate (audio) , -ˈtər-mə- \

Definition of indeterminate

1a : not definitely or precisely determined or fixed : vague
b : not known in advance
c : not leading to a definite end or result
2 : having an infinite number of solutions a system of indeterminate equations
3 : 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}
4 : 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

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Other Words from indeterminate

indeterminately adverb
indeterminateness noun
indetermination \ ˌin-​di-​ˌtər-​mə-​ˈnā-​shən How to pronounce indeterminate (audio) \ noun

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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 other options are life in prison or an indeterminate term of 25-years-to-life. Paighten Harkins, The Salt Lake Tribune, 14 Sep. 2021 The displays are restricted to Pine Bluff Art League (PBAL) members and will fill the Reynolds Center's hallways for an indeterminate period of time. Arkansas Online, 30 Aug. 2021 The mind-body problem is another example of an indeterminate question. John Horgan, Scientific American, 7 Aug. 2021 The Biden administration has frozen the Afghanistan government’s holdings in US banks, preventing the Taliban from accessing billions of dollars—a major, if indeterminate, part of the country’s foreign reserves. Samanth Subramanian, Quartz, 18 Aug. 2021 Instead, the band declared an indeterminate hiatus. Washington Post, 23 July 2021 Congee is my reminder that, under the hard surfaces, the stuff of life is mostly soft and indeterminate. New York Times, 20 May 2021 High yielding and indeterminate varieties appear to be more susceptible. oregonlive, 18 July 2021 The floating dollar was logically the crisis simply because money with indeterminate value quite simply isn’t. John Tamny, Forbes, 5 July 2021

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.

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First Known Use of indeterminate

1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for indeterminate

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

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Time Traveler for indeterminate

Time Traveler

The first known use of indeterminate was in 1603

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Dictionary Entries Near indeterminate

indeterminacy principle


indeterminate equation

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Last Updated

20 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Indeterminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for indeterminate



English Language Learners Definition of indeterminate

: not able to be stated or described in an exact way


in·​de·​ter·​mi·​nate | \ ˌin-di-ˈtərm-(ə-)nət How to pronounce indeterminate (audio) \

Medical Definition of indeterminate

: relating to, being, or undergoing indeterminate cleavage an indeterminate egg

More from Merriam-Webster on indeterminate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for indeterminate

Nglish: Translation of indeterminate for Spanish Speakers


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