Word for variable with more than two possible values/binary


English + Dutch, UK
Dear all,

I am looking for a word to indicate that a variable has more than two possible values, without knowing what the maximum is. I am thinking along the lines of binary variables but cannot think of or find the word for a variable that has multiple values.
Ideas I have come up with: polinary or multinary. I don't know if these words exist or if they do, if they mean what I hope they mean.
One that I have come across is multivariate, but this means that there's multiple variables rather than multiple values for one variable.
Can anyone help?

Thank you very much in advance
  • Zap Brannigan

    Senior Member
    Argentina, español
    Hi Pimonthy, I'm not sure what you're looking for, here's the definition of a variable:

    a quantity that can assume any of a set of values

    I don't understand why you need another word.



    Senior Member
    Multivalent might work, depending on the context. I've seen valency used in increasingly figurative ways in recent years (i.e., it's widely used outside of its more technical meaning in the field of chemistry and so on); and multivalent has pretty much come to simply indicate multiple values, without being tied to any specific quantitative range.

    Hope that helps!


    English + Dutch, UK
    Fantastic!! Thank you very much James! The Oxford English Dictionary seems to prefer polyvalent for non-technical meanings, but I wouldn't have gotten there without your suggestion. (Furthermore I use the word multivariate in the same sentense, so the poly- will stand out more than a multi-). You have been a great help!

    Just a quick note to Zap Brannigan: The point you raise is correct. I should have clarified I was looking spefically for a term that could contrast with binary.

    Thank you both for your help!


    New Member
    uk english
    I have the same question as to what the multiple version of binary is. The sequence seems to go binary, ternery, quadernery, quinternery etc suggesting polyernery as the 'N' case, cf polygon. Google lists many uses of 'polynary' however, meaning multiple point, and is a more elegant word so I propose to adopt this.
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