Not completely sure, but I don't believe ambiguous would qualify for the exact situation I am thinking of, though perhaps I am over thinking this in general. I have a question in a short story I am writing:

Why are we driving? Why can't we teleport?

And the main character, in response would ideally reply with something to the tune of:

Well that question is rather {insert adjective}. Functionally, because it's impossible. They're jamming us. Officially, because the boss told us to. Legally, because teleporting into a classified area without clearance is illegal. Personally, because I enjoy driving and don't like the idea of my atoms being ripped apart and reassembled.

Is there a word (possibly a short phrase) that describes such a situation or would it just be ambiguous?

  • For several reasons is a short phrase. – bib Feb 10 '15 at 20:43
  • 'Too broad' springs to mind. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 10 '15 at 20:44
  • Your intuition is correct about ambiguous. An ambiguous question can be interpreted as two or more distinct questions, but it does not imply multiple answers. – ScotM Feb 10 '15 at 20:49
  • What about the adj. Polysemous - – Misti Feb 10 '15 at 21:54

Such a question can said to be open-ended.

Close-ended questions are those which can be answered by a simple "yes" or "no," while open-ended questions are those which require more thought and more than a simple one-word answer. The answers could come in the form of a list, a few sentences or something longer such as a speech, paragraph or essay.


I'd like to suggest multivalent, meaning having or susceptible to many applications, interpretations, meanings, or values (as per google). However, I have to admit, I've never heard it used in exactly this manner. Open-ended (or "overly open-ended" to make it more negative) would be more common.


Collins offers multicausal

having multiple causes

Or perhaps multifaceted

having many different parts : having many facets Merriam-Webster

  • I like "multifaceted"; it's the word Lars-Gunnar Lundh used in the title of his 2009 paper, What makes therapy work? A multifaceted question. – J.R. Feb 10 '15 at 20:53
  • Multicasual - beret, sweatshirt, yoga pants, winter slippers. – Mitch Feb 10 '15 at 21:03

I like commodious:


roomy, capacious, spacious, ample, substantial, generous, sizeable, large, big, broad, wide, extensive

I am particularly fond of it in this situation because it has the idea of mode in its roots:


early 15c., "beneficial, convenient,"

from Medieval Latin commodiosus "convenient, useful,"

from Latin commodus (see commode).

Meaning "roomy, spacious" first attested 1550s. Related:


1786, "chest of drawers," earlier (1680s) name of a type of fashionable ladies' headdress,

from French commode, noun use of adjective meaning "convenient, suitable,"

from Latin commodus "proper, fit, appropriate, convenient, satisfactory,"

from com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + modus "measure, manner" (see mode (n.1)).

Meaning "chair housing a chamber pot" first attested 1851 from notion of "convenience."


"manner," late 14c., "kind of musical scale,"

from Latin modus "measure, extent, quantity; proper measure, rhythm, song; a way, manner, fashion, style" (in Late Latin also "mood" in grammar and logic),

from PIE root *med- "to measure, limit, consider, advise, take appropriate measures" (see medical).

Meaning "manner in which a thing is done" first recorded 1660s.

Literally the question is roomy and spacious enough for many answers, but it is also open to various modes of examination that produce those many answers. And as some of the answers imply that it really was a crappy question, you glean the added benefit of subtly evoking commode to put it in its place.

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