Origin of uncertain

Middle English word dating back to 1250–1300; see origin at un-1, certain
Related formsun·cer·tain·ly, adverbun·cer·tain·ness, noun

Synonyms for uncertain

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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for uncertainly

Contemporary Examples of uncertainly

  • And the Ukrainian army, slowly, uncertainly, but ineluctably, is closing in on this besieged ghost-town of a city.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Shakeup In the Ukraine Rebel High Command

    Jamie Dettmer

    August 15, 2014

  • The result was an extra month of uncertainly that impeded an already volatile hiring market.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Obama’s Jobs Malaise

    Daniel Stone

    September 2, 2011

Historical Examples of uncertainly

  • Cyrus had withdrawn from the stove, and was feeling his chin, uncertainly.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

British Dictionary definitions for uncertainly



not able to be accurately known or predictedthe issue is uncertain
(when postpositive, often foll by of) not sure or confident (about)a man of uncertain opinion
not precisely determined, established, or decideduncertain plans
not to be depended upon; unreliablean uncertain vote
liable to variation; changeablethe weather is uncertain
in no uncertain terms
  1. unambiguously
  2. forcefully
Derived Formsuncertainly, adverbuncertainness, 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

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

Idioms and Phrases with uncertainly


see in no uncertain terms.

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