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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
  • It is uncertain how soon or how fast the oil will start gurgling again.
  • Yet decision makers insist that they bring clarity when information is scarce and outcomes uncertain.
  • Also known as pie cherry, this species is of uncertain origin.
  • That, it turns out, is a scientifically uncertain and even controversial question.
  • Ida's significance was described in no uncertain terms as the missing link between us humans and our primate kin.
  • When people face an uncertain situation, they don't carefully evaluate the information or look up relevant statistics.
  • The long-term outlook in their home market-which still accounts for about two-thirds of output-is uncertain.
  • Whether extinct dinosaurs had the same physiology as living mammals and birds remains uncertain.
  • Cognitive biases are a useful mechanism for dealing with uncertain but potentially important information.
  • Neither demand was realistic: the way ahead is too uncertain.
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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