The title pretty much already describes it:

Whats the 'neutral' term when relating to "success" or "failure"? A term which is neither, but still some kind of result?

To further elaborate, I'm looking for a 'logic' word, nothing that implies any kind of compromise or tie. To define something similar in javascript, it'ld be:

true - undefined - false

But I was wondering if there is a better word than undefined / unresolved, since those imply that there might be a resolution in the future.

  • Success and failure are judged with respect to external criteria. When all criteria have been met, it's a complete success. When no criteria have been met, it's an unmitigated failure. When some criteria are met it's either a partial success or a partial failure, depending on the (arbitrary) importance of individual criteria relative to each other.
    – TimR
    Jul 21, 2015 at 14:59
  • What situation in logic would you get where the outcome of an operation was neither success nor fail? Unless it was still pending, or resulted in an error?
    – Some_Guy
    Jul 22, 2015 at 12:41
  • @Some_Guy well, an example would be this: A child asks you "Is 1+1=2?". There are 3 possible outcomes: "Yes" (success), "No" (failure) or the kid never got an answer ( "undefined" ) - in relation to: "Is my assumption '1+1=2' correct?". There is no real partial success or failure because it's pretty much like a boolean value (true / false). I also wanted to limit the timeframe: there shouldn't be a pending state. The child just never got and will never get an answer.
    – Katai
    Jul 22, 2015 at 13:48
  • Nothing I could come with beats inconclusive.
    – Some_Guy
    Jul 22, 2015 at 16:50
  • 1
    There have been several answers, so far, but I do not think you have made it clear what you are asking for. You want something halfway between success or failure, and to describe it as a logic type of word. success/failure is relative to some aim or intention. So, if I aim/intend to bring about some result (x) then if I succeed in this and x happens wholly or partly because of me, I have success, otherwise, I have failure. There is nothing in between. So you must have in mind something more subtle. Could you give a few examples of an 'in-between' situation?
    – Tuffy
    Feb 12, 2020 at 23:05

8 Answers 8


Inconclusive (adj.) — Dictionary.com

  1. not conclusive; not resolving fully all doubts or questions
    "inconclusive evidence."

  2. without final results or outcome
    "inconclusive experiments."

  • There were quite a good examples here, but I think inconclusive really matches what I was searching for.
    – Katai
    Jul 22, 2015 at 7:30
  • 'Inconclusive' probably means the trial etc needs to be repeated. It speaks of a situation that needs rectifying rather than a 'not perfect, but acceptable' result. Nov 8, 2023 at 14:43

A Philosophy of Failure and Success: Either/Or, or Both/And?

Being a "both/and" kinda guy, I like, at times, to look at polar opposites (such as failure and success) as a combination of the two; a little of both, if you will. Instead of considering one step in the direction of success a failure, I like to consider it a partial success. After all, getting off the dime, so to speak, is perhaps the biggest step toward success. Inertia is overcome, and there is movement forward.

"Ah," but you say, "what of the runner--a marathoner, for example--who does not make it to the finish line? Clearly, he or she has not succeeded in what they started out to do?" Good question, but let me ask you, "Is only reaching the finish line a success, or is each mile the runner runs a partial success?"

More to the point, is not simply showing up at the starting line after months of training and building up stamina to the point where a 26-plus mile-run is within reach a kind of success? And what marathoner who wins a given marathon is not thinking about the next marathon in which he or she will beat their own best time, or beat the record on a regional scale (citywide, countywide, statewide, nationwide), or even beat the worldwide record!

What we humans accomplish in time and space will always be a mixture of past, present, and future. Our past informs our present and our present informs our future, and at no point can one say--accurately, at least--that a success is but a point-in-time accomplishment. After all, how can anyone pinpoint the present? As soon as you think you're in the present, you're instantly looking back on what was the present (thanks, George Carlin!).

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Peter J. Leithart,1 and Charles Williams (a friend of C.S. Lewis) are on the right track, I believe, when they talk about the phenomenon they call, variously and respectively, reciprocal habitation, perichoresis (or reciprocal penetration), and coinherence. In the phenomena of time, space, society, marriage, family, community, religion, and so much more, the whole kit and caboodle may be ONE, but the PARTS cohere in some way and to some extent with the whole. Put differently, there is unity in diversity, diversity in unity, and diversity in autonomy.

Just at the very moment you begin to think of yourself as an autonomous critter--a virtual island, you also begin to realize (if you're honest with yourself and humble) how all the experiences, relationships, teachers, books, relatives (especially parents), failures, and successes have made you what you are today. We may be autonomous in the sense that each human being possesses an "irreducible otherness"2, but by the same token, each of us is indwelt mutually by each other, and that includes the past, the present, and the future. Can an individual ever be truly autonomous? (Well, perhaps only in death!)

What, Then, Inhabits the Middle Ground Between Failure and Success?

Here are some suggestions:

  • headway toward success

  • progress away from failure and toward success

  • a modicum of success

  • gradations of success

  • segue to success

  • interim success

  • the interpenetration of the failures of the past and partial successes of the present

  • coinherence of failure and success

Take your pick.

Is there a single word for that middle ground? I cannot think of one offhand. That does not mean there isn't one, however! A little help, please!

1 Peter J. Leithart, Traces of the Trinity: Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2015

2 Ibid., p.46

  • 1
    'A modicum of success' is perhaps the best answer. Nov 8, 2023 at 14:43

If someone were asked how she fared with a certain project, a response meaning "so-so" might be, "It was a middling success."

middling (adj.)

Of intermediate or average size, position, or quality; mediocre. The football team is never the worst or best in its league; its position is always middling.


To illustrate, here's an example from Norman Mailer's Advertisements for Myself:

[the book] sold over fifty thousand copies after returns which surprised a good many in publishing, as well as disappointing a few, including myself. I discovered that I had been poised for an enormous sale or a failure--a middling success was cruel to take.



The problem with answering this is the lack of context. But if I wanted to briefly and vaguely say the results were inconclusive without creating an expectation of later clarification, I would use gray.

How'd the mission go?

Gray. It was...gray.

  • You might strengthen your answer by quoting a dictionary definition of gray that is suitable to the context that the poster asks about.
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 8, 2016 at 16:54

barren: showing no results
'he scored yesterday to end his barren spell'


I'm not sure you can keep pace with our expectations. one word, the only word that might alter your indubitable incapability inhibits irreversibly inert inevitabilities, but the one word that's important is...IMPROVE

  • That doesn't answer OP's question, which includes "logic word, nothing that implies any kind of compromise or tie".
    – JJJ
    Mar 19, 2018 at 11:19

If failure is 0 and total success is 10, then somewhere around 4-6 could be considered mediocre, perhaps. After that it is up to you to describe.

I like a lot of the answers, but from OP's question I infer a spectrum. As another poster said, it depends on the criteria by which you identify success. I would add that you could assign a value to your performance, as elementary school teachers did in the ancient times.

They would grade your work as an integer between 0 and 100. A "passing" grade was usually 70, also represented by "C". So a C student was one who usually scored between 70 and 80, which was the cutoff for B, with 90 and above as an A. Scoring a solid 100 and possibly outperforming the expectations of the assignment would be an A+.

Yes, I am that old.


Perhaps "Resolution" or "Conclusion?" These state an end without implying a win or loss.

M-W gives:


1 : the act or process of resolving: such as
a : the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones
b : the act of answering : SOLVING
c : the act of determining
d : the passing of a voice part from a dissonant to a consonant tone or the progression of a chord from dissonance to consonance


1 a : a reasoned judgment : INFERENCE
The obvious conclusion is that she was negligent.
b : the necessary consequence of two or more propositions taken as premises
especially : the inferred proposition of a syllogism
2 : the last part of something
The team was exhausted at the conclusion of the game. : such as
The peace talks came to a successful conclusion.

  • 1
    In the case of a single word request, you should always include a authoritative definition and an explanation of why you think your suggestion(s) answer the question. One line answers are usually considered to be low quality and may be deleted. Nov 8, 2023 at 14:50

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