in·​de·​ter·​mi·​nate | \ˌin-di-ˈtərm-nət, -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 \ 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 torque output beats all the competitors but the Bolt and a Tesla 3 long range, which has a base price of $44,00 and an indeterminate waiting period for delivery. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, "Review: Electric 2018 Nissan Leaf energized by value and range," 7 June 2018 These bodies float in indeterminate, abstract spaces like those of Francis Bacon, another painter of contorted flesh. Sharon Mizota,, "Black and gay: Jonathan Lyndon Chase's paintings play with cultural conventions," 25 June 2018 The indeterminate increase in revenue will help pay down the state's budget deficit, which has previously been pegged at about $700 million for fiscal year 2019, which began July 1. Author: Elwood Brehmer, Anchorage Daily News, "Despite slight production dip, Alaska oil revenue grows in FY18," 13 July 2018 Place on the middle rack of a 3,000-foot Hong Kong high-rise that’s on fire, courtesy of a bad guy with an indeterminate foreign accent and sprinkle generously with cliches. Michael O’sullivan, kansascity, "In ‘Skyscraper,’ Dwayne Johnson’s charisma elevates a dumb movie," 12 July 2018 If the judge had allowed her to be tried as a child, Schroeder would have faced indeterminate time in a juvenile facility, but would have been released before her 21st birthday. Schroeder is being held on $1 million bond. Steve Helling,, "Girl, 15, Allegedly Killed Mom and Burned Body Because She Feared Disapproval of Same-Sex Relationship," 22 June 2018 This is because suicide is indeterminate, much like the X plus Y equals 1 equation. Joseph Franklin, Scientific American, "Suicide Prediction Remains Difficult Despite Decades of Research," 11 June 2018 An indeterminate variety will have flowers in various stages of maturity, some having small fruit and some not. Walter Reeves, ajc, "Invasive stiltgrass loves moisture and shade," 13 June 2018 All of this research shows that suicide is unfortunately too complex and indeterminate for humans to predict. Joseph Franklin, Scientific American, "Suicide Prediction Remains Difficult Despite Decades of Research," 11 June 2018

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 above

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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Last Updated

26 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for indeterminate

The first known use of indeterminate was in 1603

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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 \

Medical Definition of indeterminate 

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

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Spanish Central: Translation of indeterminate

Nglish: Translation of indeterminate for Spanish Speakers

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What made you want to look up indeterminate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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