Definition of indeterminate in English:



  • 1Not exactly known, established, or defined.

    ‘the date of manufacture is indeterminate’
    • ‘An adequate account of boredom, then, must explain in one sense that only something indeterminate is lacking.’
    • ‘A zone can be anything: its spatial characteristics are indeterminate, adequate to absorb the contradictions of the Socialist market economy.’
    • ‘Luminous veils of white and yellow arise at the centers of her paintings, evoking indeterminate distance and establishing a mood of poetic reverie.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the imported Italian color has faded to an indeterminate yellow.’
    • ‘The parallel to Kafka is most appropriate here, but the ‘characters’ are as indeterminate as the landscape.’
    • ‘But I'm aware as I write this that these are the same things I write whenever I'm sick - and that this cycle of indeterminate abdominal trouble is much the same as January's.’
    • ‘He specialized in what I'll call Mulberry Street people - indeterminate ethnicity, but certainly not spindly WASPs or gesticulating Levantines.’
    • ‘Whether mental illness is attributed to a hypothetical brain disease or to an ‘internal dysfunction’ of indeterminate origin, the moral implications are the same.’
    • ‘As the argument proceeds, social reality, seen as fragmented and indeterminate, is soon dissolved into ‘discourse’.’
    • ‘‘Well, at least this bit is as it should be,’ Graham said, pointing with a half-eaten croissant at a sour-faced lady of indeterminate years, stomping along the pavement.’
    • ‘Locals exercising their dogs of indeterminate breed (all hill dogs look handsome with their husky-like fur coats) acknowledged our presence with warm smiles.’
    • ‘He seems to be being asked to look at what industry might need at some indeterminate time in the future.’
    • ‘‘It also allows me to make what you might call indeterminate or minor little changes, modifications,’ he acknowledges.’
    • ‘It believes that a circular spaceship carrying 1,500 smaller ships filled with bombs will at some indeterminate point destroy both Britain and America.’
    • ‘The serious looking female civil service type of indeterminate age who sat to my left was a model of discretion prior to Jack's appearance on stage.’
    • ‘She was wearing a coat of an indeterminate pinkish, orangeish, reddish colour that I will call ‘hot salmon’.’
    • ‘All those dark, placeless landscapes and stringy, demented characters of indeterminate sex are straight from a Freudian case study.’
    • ‘The taxi driver was of indeterminate national origin and quizzed me as to what I did for a living.’
    • ‘She was a ruddy-faced, cheerful blonde of indeterminate age.’
    • ‘The removalists are due at 7am, and at my joint some indeterminate time later to move the piano and the rest of my worldly goods for the third time in 12 months.’
    undetermined, undefined, unspecified, unfixed, unsettled, indefinite, unknown, uncounted, uncertain, unpredictable
    vague, indefinite, unspecific, unclear, obscure, nebulous, indistinct, some kind of
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1(of a judicial sentence) such that the convicted person's conduct determines the date of release.
      • ‘He handed down an indeterminate sentence, which means the man can only released if the Parole Board decides he is not a danger to the public.’
      • ‘This indeterminate sentence requires considerations of rehabilitation.’
      • ‘Supervised probation and indeterminate sentences guided by the progress of the child were the usual means.’
      • ‘But the new indeterminate sentence system had an immediate impact.’
      • ‘Our common law once upon a time did not recognise indeterminate sentences.’
      • ‘Overall, the Court's conclusions are expressed in terms that indicate no objection under article 3 to a mandatory indeterminate sentence for murder.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, crime-control measures were enacted mandating ‘new restrictions on the indeterminate sentence, parole, and probation’.’
      • ‘He said the only sentence he could pass is indeterminate life sentences.’
      • ‘This is not a review of the position, for example, following an indeterminate sentence which may be imposed at the time of conviction.’
      • ‘The indeterminate sentence means it will be up to the parole board to decide when it is safe for the man to be released on licence.’
      • ‘A slightly longer period may be justifiable but indeterminate detention without judicial approval is not.’
      • ‘The tariffs for murder and, for indeterminate terms, the mandatory sentences are all signs that the executive doesn't trust the judiciary.’
      • ‘Victimless crimes and indeterminate sentences were thus proscribed.’
      • ‘At the meeting he pledged to introduce indeterminate sentencing for serious offenders, meaning they would not be released from prison until it was proved they were safe.’
      • ‘Such engagements were of indeterminate duration, there being no fixed date for their end, and each was discharged by performance rather than expiry.’
      • ‘There has been argument about whether or not there should be an extension of the interlocutory injunction which is to expire today for a period of indeterminate length.’
      • ‘They are concerned that an estate of freehold must be of indeterminate duration.’
    2. 1.2Mathematics (of a quantity) having no definite or definable value.
      • ‘Problems of this type which are found in the manuscript are examined in and some of these lead to indeterminate equations.’
      • ‘Books 1-3 contain linear or quadratic indeterminate equations, many of them simultaneous.’
      • ‘Samples were interpreted as indeterminate if the OD values were in the range 0.3-0.5 units.’
      • ‘He considers problems of indeterminate equations of the first degree and trigonometric formulas.’
      • ‘He then continued his studies at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics investigating an indeterminate equation of degree three.’
      • ‘Firstly Abu Kamil is the first Arabic mathematician who we know solved indeterminate problems of the type found in Diophantus's work.’
      • ‘The Arithmetica is a collection of 130 problems giving numerical solutions of determinate equations (those with a unique solution), and indeterminate equations.’
    3. 1.3Medicine (of a condition) from which a diagnosis of the underlying cause cannot be made.
      ‘indeterminate colitis’
      • ‘This indeterminate nodule was excluded from the analysis.’
      • ‘Extrapolating our findings to this high risk population indicates that screening would identify more than 180 million uncalcified, radiologically indeterminate nodules.’
      • ‘These can be used to resolve the infection status of individuals with indeterminate serological results.’
      • ‘Such cases tended to display abundant inflammation and were classified as indeterminate for dysplasia.’
      • ‘Additionally, for lesions without obvious calcifications or for those with indeterminate calcifications, a phantom study can be done.’
      • ‘Many centres, however, suggest surgical excision of all indeterminate follicular lesions to make a definitive histological diagnosis.’
    4. 1.4Botany (of a plant shoot) not having all the axes terminating in a flower bud and so producing a shoot of indefinite length.
      • ‘The reproductive shoot apex contains the indeterminate, primary inflorescence meristem that produces the main inflorescence axis of the plant.’
      • ‘In the first step, a leaf primordium is formed that involves a switch from indeterminate to leaf developmental fate in the shoot apical meristem cells.’
      • ‘Leaves in vascular plants are produced by determinate growth on the flanks of indeterminate shoot apical meristems.’
      • ‘This model is characterized by a single monopodial trunk and plagiotropic, indeterminate branches.’
      • ‘The propagules of these predominantly arctic/alpine grasses consist of indeterminate spikelets, which revert to vegetative growth before dehiscing from the parent plant.’


Early 17th century: from late Latin indeterminatus, from in- not + Latin determinatus limited, determined (see determinate).