|uncertainty principle (ŭn-sûr'tn-tē) Pronunciation Key
A principle, especially as formulated in quantum mechanics, that greater accuracy of measurement for one observable entails less accuracy of measurement for another. For example, it is in principle impossible to measure both the momentum and the position of a particle at the same time with perfect accuracy. Any pair of observables whose operators do not commute have this property. As defined in quantum mechanics, it is also called Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Similar uncertainty principles hold for non-quantum mechanical systems involving waves as well.