In Japanese, the particle と is used within an exhaustive list of items, to separate each item. E.g.

りんごバナナメロンがあります。 (Ringo to banana to meron ga arimasu.)

I have an apple, a banana, and a melon. (implication: I have nothing else.)

The particle や is used to list items in a way that suggests that you have other things, but there's no point in listing them all, similar to how we use "etc.":

りんごバナナメロンがあります。 (Ringo ya banana ya meron ga arimasu.)

I have an apple, a banana, a melon, etc. (implication: I also have other things.)

What type of listing would the second example be? In other words, what is the opposite of an exhaustive list?

  • 2
    Well, that would defeat the point of a list.
    – Lou
    Nov 13, 2014 at 14:03
  • 11
    non-exhaustive? Nov 13, 2014 at 14:23
  • 2
    About all I can think of is "partial list", and that is implied (and therefore need not be explicitly stated) if the list ends with "etc".
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 13, 2014 at 16:10
  • 1
    Similar to what @A E stated, but less formally, simply using "including" sufficiently implies that the list is not complete: "I have many foods, including a banana and a melon".\ Nov 13, 2014 at 17:05
  • 5
    et cetera should only be used when it is obvious how the list continues; it cannot be used for an arbitrarily trimmed list, like "I have an apple, a pen, a ball, {* et cetera | and some other things}" because we cannot guess what follows.
    – Kaz
    Nov 13, 2014 at 22:42

10 Answers 10


If you want to simply state the list is incomplete, you can say a "partial list"; if you want to emphasize the list is intentionally not exhaustive, you can say a "selective list". If you're simply listing some examples, you can say that.

The English (well, ok, Latin) typographic convention which corresponds to your "" is "i.e.": that is, specifically, exactly, and respectively to "" is "e.g.": for example.

  • You are correct to suggest this and I wish I could give you more than one + for it. However, I would like to point out, that in my experience, it is somewhat uncommon for people to be aware of the distinction between i.e. and e.g. Nov 14, 2014 at 21:59
  • I'd like to disagree with your last point but I suspect you're right
    – Lou
    Nov 14, 2014 at 23:56
  • I certainly do, i.e. its clear to me and useful in many cases, e.g. questions that include an example Nov 15, 2014 at 12:14

You could say an

Incomplete list

is not exhaustive. However note that neither this, nor the "partial list" of the previous answer, is truly an antonym: they imply that there definitely are other items which our presented list does not include, but which an exhaustive list would.

To include the possibility that our list could potentially be exhaustive, but we don't have enough information to say that definitively, I'd still go with a

Non-exhaustive list

  • 1
    It's good practice not to repeat answers already given by others.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 13, 2014 at 22:08
  • 4
    I wasn't aware answers were required to be so discrete.
    – Lou
    Nov 14, 2014 at 2:04
  • 3
    @DanBron: I vehemently disagree that blgt is required to post an incomplete answer just because you have already posted part of what he wants to say.
    – Marthaª
    Nov 14, 2014 at 18:16

Being a mathematician at heart, I would use “a sample” or “a sampling” (as used in statistics), or “a subset” (from set theory).  Strictly speaking, neither of these is explicitly non-exhaustive (at least in set theory, any set is a subset of itself, so “subset” could refer to the entire collection), but they have the connotation of representing less than the whole.


If it is a list that you want to later add something to, aware that it is incomplete, you could call it a tentative list.

Equally suggesting that the incompleteness is a known factor, but implying one should work off of the list until further items are added, is a provisional list.

Both words imply that the list is known to be incomplete, and that more items may be added in the future, but that the items included are a rough guide to follow until or unless revisions are made to that list.

Also note that in certian cases, these terms can mean incomplete in the sense that items might be removed from the list, such as picking players for a sports team and eliminating them as the list is changed. And both of these terms can become a complete list if later one decides that the list no longer needs modification, but that it can still mean a list that is incomplete, and in the context of lists where items might be added later, the meaning would be understood.

  • 1
    Tentative and provisional do not imply incomplete. They only imply that the list may change. Items could be added, removed, substituted, or the list may remain unmodified. Nov 17, 2014 at 17:17
  • @NoahSpurrier It still implies the list is incomplete, or based on what is known to be necessary so far. Assuming the user's intent is to indicate that the list has not yet been finished. You are right to say that sometimes items may be removed from the list, but it is much more common that the 'tentative' or 'provisional' nature of a list indicates items that are known to be needed, in the case of getting grocery items as an example (though in cases like picking people for a sports team, you are right that items might be removed).
    – Zibbobz
    Nov 17, 2014 at 17:29

I would say an indicative list.

In french we use the expression "A titre indicatif" to precise that something (an information, a list,...) is not exhaustive and is provided solely for guidance and should neither be quoted nor considered as having legal value.


The opposite of exhaustive in the sense of "testing all possibilities or considering all elements: THOROUGH" (the definition in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary) might be scattershot. Again from the Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary:

scattershot adj (1951) broadly and often randomly inclusive : SHOTGUN {scattershot advice} {scattershot planning}

A "scattershot list" would thus be a list that draws elements from across a large underlying population but does so without any attempt at exhaustiveness or even systematic representation.

  • +1 for a nice word, if obscure :)
    – Lou
    Nov 13, 2014 at 21:47

Would cursory list fit the situation?

  • Are you asking a question, or providing an answer? (I'd suggest quoting a couple places where this expression is used, to bolster the answer. As it stands now, it almost looks like you lengthened a two-word suggestion into a question just to meet the character minimum.)
    – J.R.
    Nov 15, 2014 at 10:47
  • Regardless, this seems more suitable as a comment.
    – Lou
    Nov 15, 2014 at 12:27
  • 1
    @Leo - In its current form, perhaps. But cursory list is a good option; it's an oft-used phrase that fits the O.P.'s bill. Rather than saying, "This should be a comment," I'd prefer to say, "Let's make this better; it's a good suggestion."
    – J.R.
    Nov 15, 2014 at 15:57
  • Good point, nice attitude.
    – Lou
    Nov 15, 2014 at 16:40

Just an 'open list' if it has not been finished.

  • 3
    Hi B_witam, welcome to ELU! Could you give a bit more detail in your answer, please! [We tend to delete answers that are very short and don't explain why they might be right or might be helpful...] Nov 13, 2014 at 23:19

As a Japanese, I would use "complete, or definate" list for conjunction, と, and "incomplete / indefinite, or open" list for や for explaining the functions of と and や on the list of items.

P.S. Perhaps you can get more pertinent answers from Japanese Language site of Stack Exchange.


I would immediately use inclusive list; the list includes these items, but could include others too.

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