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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
Middle English word dating back to 1250-1300; See origin at un-1, certain
Related forms
uncertainly, adverb
uncertainness, noun
1. unsure, unpredictable. 3. unsettled, undetermined. 8. irregular.
Synonym Study
1.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. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for uncertainly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Cyrus had withdrawn from the stove, and was feeling his chin, uncertainly.

    Meadow Grass Alice Brown
  • The uncertainly and mystery that enveloped Eldorado was its greatest charm.

    Four Girls and a Compact Annie Hamilton Donnell
  • In the living-room he stood and stared about him uncertainly.

  • “I must go through the dining-room to get to my room,” Olive said uncertainly.

    Olive in Italy Moray Dalton
  • The girl's voice was colorless, and she did not look at Rufus who regarded her uncertainly.

    In Apple-Blossom Time

    Clara Louise Burnham
  • Let us then picture, however vaguely and uncertainly, the growth of a ballad.

  • Sheila watched him uncertainly, and then took possession of the next room.

    Police Your Planet Lester del Rey
  • The soldier's voice broke off uncertainly and Gaddon laughed shortly.

    The Monster S. M. Tenneshaw
British Dictionary definitions for uncertainly


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 uncertainly



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 uncertainly


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