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[uhn-sur-tn] /ʌnˈsɜr tn/
not definitely ascertainable or fixed, as in time of occurrence, number, dimensions, or quality.
not confident, assured, or free from hesitancy:
an uncertain smile.
not clearly or precisely determined; indefinite; unknown:
a manuscript of uncertain origin.
vague; indistinct; not perfectly apprehended:
an abstruse novel with uncertain themes.
subject to change; variable; capricious; unstable:
a person of uncertain opinions.
ambiguous; unreliable; undependable:
Her loyalties are uncertain.
dependent on chance or unpredictable factors; doubtful; of unforeseeable outcome or effect.
unsteady or flickering, as light; of changing intensity or quality.
Origin of uncertain
1250-1300; Middle English; see un-1, certain
Related forms
uncertainly, adverb
uncertainness, noun
1. unsure, unpredictable. Uncertain, insecure, precarious imply a lack of predictability. That which is uncertain is doubtful or problematical; it often involves danger through an inability to predict or to place confidence in the unknown: The time of his arrival is uncertain. That which is insecure is not firm, stable, reliable, or safe, and hence is likely to give way, fail, or be overcome: an insecure foundation, footing, protection. Precarious suggests great susceptibility to failure, or exposure to imminent danger: a precarious means of existence. 3. unsettled, undetermined. 8. irregular. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for uncertain
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He rambled at random with the uncertain step caused by solitude.

    The Man Who Laughs Victor Hugo
  • Her face was close to his, else he could not have caught the uncertain murmuring.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • Except that your words are most uncertain and uncomforting, John.

    The Measure of a Man Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr
  • Then some one—who it was is uncertain—ordered the bugler to sound the "charge."

    The Story of the Malakand Field Force Sir Winston S. Churchill
  • Not least among the fascinations of the soldier's life is the uncertain tenure he has of his camp.

    Campfire and Battlefield Rossiter Johnson
British Dictionary definitions for uncertain


not able to be accurately known or predicted: the issue is uncertain
when postpositive, often foll by of. not sure or confident (about): a man of uncertain opinion
not precisely determined, established, or decided: uncertain plans
not to be depended upon; unreliable: an uncertain vote
liable to variation; changeable: the weather is uncertain
in no uncertain terms
  1. unambiguously
  2. forcefully
Derived Forms
uncertainly, adverb
uncertainness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for uncertain

c.1300, "of indeterminate time or occurrence," from un- (1) "not" + certain (adj.). Meaning "not fully confident" is recorded from late 14c. (implied in uncertainty). Related: Uncertainly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with uncertain


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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