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 indetermination (audio) \ 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 With other donors, interest in Britain is more indeterminate. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, "In a bitter British election, influence of wealthy U.S. donors causes a stir," 30 Nov. 2019 Those that remain are threatened by a looming, though indeterminate, expiration date. John Otis, New York Times, "Memorializing a New York Neighborhood With a 19th-Century Technique," 18 Dec. 2019 Production on the latest season of Days of Our Lives is about to wrap and the actors may be without a contract for an indeterminate period of time if a new deal between the soap and NBC isn’t inked soon. Lynette Rice,, "Days of Our Lives future uncertain as production wraps on 55th season," 12 Nov. 2019 With the long prelude now over, we’re in an indeterminate period of legal brinkmanship and parliamentary chess. Chris Wilson, Time, "How Long Could the Trump Impeachment Process Last? Use Our Interactive Timeline to Find Out," 1 Oct. 2019 Sony and Major League Baseball issued a joint statement on Monday night confirming that their shared license for the series MLB The Show will persist for an indeterminate amount of time. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Sony announces plan to publish PlayStation games on non-PS consoles [updated]," 9 Dec. 2019 Between the rabid fans of the sci-fi franchise and his indeterminate work on a new chapter for the space saga, that’s no easy task. John Wenzel, The Know, "Director Rian Johnson on juggling “Knives Out,” following “The Last Jedi,” and more," 1 Dec. 2019 Despondent mothers might be detained for an indeterminate amount of time. Carmel Mc Mahon, Longreads, "Brigid, Magdalene, My Mother, and Me," 13 Nov. 2019 Ladislaw offers a metaphor that might well serve the present moment, in which English life is being reshaped to still indeterminate ends. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "How George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” Resonates in the England of 2019," 21 Nov. 2019

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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Statistics for indeterminate

Last Updated

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Indeterminate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for indeterminate


How to pronounce indeterminate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of indeterminate

formal : 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on indeterminate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for indeterminate

Spanish Central: Translation of indeterminate

Nglish: Translation of indeterminate for Spanish Speakers

Comments on indeterminate

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


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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