Definition of indefinite in English:



  • 1Lasting for an unknown or unstated length of time.

    ‘they may face indefinite detention’
    • ‘Until recently, though, they failed to do so, and Chapters capitalized on this reluctance by deferring payments - to everyone - for an almost indefinite length.’
    • ‘The new crackdown on shoplifting - announced this week - means that anyone caught stealing from any of the town centre's hundreds of stores will receive an automatic ban for an indefinite period.’
    • ‘The Opposition says the indefinite detention of children for the purposes of law enforcement is a national disgrace, and it vows to release all children from detention centres if it wins government.’
    • ‘Here it's not even suggested that continuing indefinite detention has anything to do with ‘investigating and preventing subversive activity’.’
    • ‘The USA Patriot Act must be repudiated, and police-state practices such as indefinite detention and the denial of legal counsel banned.’
    • ‘The training period is of indefinite length, but graduates are expected to land a middle-management job within three years.’
    • ‘The indefinite detention has affected his mental health.’
    • ‘In most cases, such detail is stored for indefinite lengths of time.’
    • ‘Undermining fundamental liberties, such as indefinite detention without due process, however, is another matter altogether, one as likely to fuel problems as quell them.’
    • ‘The Law Lords ruling stated that indefinite detention without trial of foreign nationals was discriminatory, because it applied only to foreigners and not to British nationals.’
    • ‘National alcohol groups said it was one of the most stringent cases of which they had heard - and maybe the first indefinite ban issued for drink offenders.’
    • ‘Certainly, we agree that indefinite detention for the purpose of interrogation is not authorized.’
    • ‘Likewise, there is an interval of a similarly indefinite length of time between the injection of the remedial serum and the lowering of the speculative fever.’
    • ‘Nine Law Lords ruled on Thursday morning that their indefinite detention breached human rights but the government has refused to release the prisoners while it considers its position.’
    • ‘Miners are threatening an indefinite overtime ban at Kellingley Colliery, near Pontefract, in a dispute over new shift patterns.’
    • ‘Readers of the Star Tribune will remain in their cloud of unknowing for the indefinite future.’
    • ‘They were introduced in England when the indefinite detention system in England was thrown out by the House of Lords because it offended the human rights principles in the European convention.’
    • ‘An indefinite overtime ban by the 21-members also starts today and another one day strike is planned for next week.’
    • ‘The indefinite detention without trial of foreign nationals under emergency terror laws is incompatible with European human rights laws, the Law Lords have ruled.’
    • ‘It consists of a memory tape of indefinite length, and a processor which manifests the current state of the machine.’
    unknown, indeterminate, unspecified, unlimited, unrestricted, undecided, undetermined, undefined, unfixed, unsettled, unresolved, uncertain
    View synonyms
  • 2Not clearly expressed or defined; vague.

    ‘an indefinite number of generations’
    • ‘The water is deep here and such a dark blue that the lines of the tiles at the bottom are obscured, indefinite.’
    • ‘But should so vague and indefinite a threat to peace be sufficient reason for military intervention?’
    • ‘Most mainstream politics have capitulated to the normalization of a state of indefinite, vague and continuous low-level war.’
    • ‘He adds, a few lines further on, that this term freedom is an indefinite, and incalculably ambiguous term… liable to an infinity of misunderstandings, confusions and errors.’
    vague, ill-defined, unclear, loose, general, imprecise, inexact, nebulous, blurred, fuzzy, hazy, confused, obscure, ambiguous, equivocal, doubtful, dubious
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Grammar (of a word, inflection, or phrase) not determining the person, thing, time, etc. referred to.
      ‘in Greek the dual contrasts with the indefinite plural’
      • ‘In this intermediate period, especially indefinite determiners seem to be distributed in a quite clearcut way according to the specificity of the referents introduced by the respective noun phrases.’
      • ‘While bare plurals are ambiguous between the two readings, indefinite singulars can only refer to a rule or a regulation.’
      • ‘Nouns are marked for gender, number, and case as well as for definite and indefinite forms.’
      • ‘On this account, it is the polysemy of the indefinite article that gives rise to the ambiguity of the indefinite noun phrase.’
      • ‘A sentence stating that something exists, usually consisting of there, the verb be, and an indefinite noun phrase: There's a tavern in the town.’


Mid 16th century: from Latin indefinitus, from in- ‘not’ + definitus ‘defined, set within limits’ (see definite).