The word I'm looking for does not entirely have a positive connotation as it may mean that you don't have a certain style or attitude in making decisions. You may have just decided based on what is available or on what you know.

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    There seem to be two different requests here. Do you want a word for "making a decision without enough information", or do you want a word for "selecting the best option available, even when it isn't a good option"? I think you want the first one, but I'm not completely sure. – AndyT Oct 15 '15 at 15:50
  • Correct. I want the proper term for the former. BUT you may not know that it is enough as you only decide based what you know or what is presented to you. – Erebus Oct 15 '15 at 15:55
  • Ok. I've suggested a modification to the question title to make this clearer. – AndyT Oct 15 '15 at 15:57
  • Obligatory pointing-out of the fact that every non-trivial decision is based on incomplete information. – Keen Oct 15 '15 at 17:33
  • Sounds as though you're making decisions on an "ad hoc basis"; in other words, making an impromptu, on the spot, situation-specific decision, likely on the basis of incomplete information, as ad hoc decisions usually are! Don – rhetorician Oct 15 '15 at 17:41

To Infer may fit.

  • to derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from premises or evidence;
  • from facts, circumstances, statements, to indicate or involve as a conclusion; to lead to.
  • to guess; speculate; surmise.
  • to hint; imply; suggest.
  • to draw a conclusion, as by reasoning.

Inference is the corresponding noun.

  • the act or process of inferring.
  • something that is inferred.
  • (Logic) the process of deriving the strict logical consequences of assumed premises; the process of arriving at some conclusion that, though it is not logically derivable from the assumed premises, possesses some degree of probability relative to the premises; a proposition reached by a process of inference.
  • Thank you! I agree using 'infer' makes sense when 'heuristic' is not applicable. – Erebus Oct 15 '15 at 22:01

To "settle for" is to accept something in spite of not being completely satisfied. (The Free dictionary)

"Making an educated decison" is to make a decision based on what you know.

  • Following the OP's clarification, I don't think "settle for" provides what the OP is looking for. – AndyT Oct 15 '15 at 16:11
  • AndyT is correct, I can't say "settle for" since in this context you assume already that the information presented to you is not enough. The idea is you don't know that the information or facts are complete or not when making the decision. – Erebus Oct 15 '15 at 16:31

An educated guess or a guesstimate. A ballpark estimate might work too.

Guesstimate is defined by Webster's Unabridged as "an estimate formed without adequate factual or statistical information".

Also, when you don't have enough information, you can go with your gut. Or make a gut decision. Or make a judgment call (when objective information is not available.) All of these can imply lack of data and can fit in context.

  • "guess" is not what I exactly need as you have been presented with concrete information or facts so you are making decision based on them. The "guessing" part is only limited making a decision based on this without knowing if this is the complete picture. And again, you don't know whether or not the information is complete. You make a decision as to what it is therefore isn't exactly guessing. – Erebus Oct 15 '15 at 16:26

In the field of artificial intelligence, such methods of problem solving on the basis of incomplete information and with the help of loose rules of thumb are described as "heuristic". A "heuristic" is defined by wiktionary.org as a method that "solves a problem more quickly but is not certain to arrive at an optimal solution".

  • Thanks! This is a really good match for what I needed. Do you know of exact synonyms for heuristic? – Erebus Oct 15 '15 at 15:25
  • I can't think of any synonyms, and none of the usual sources suggest any. I think this is one of those times where scientists couldn't find an existing word for what they wanted, so they made up a new term, based on an old Greek word to make it sound more "sciency". Though, according to eytmonline.com, it's from 1860, so I guess it predates artificial intelligence research. – Doug Warren Oct 15 '15 at 15:34
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    Read the definition one more time, and you will see that a heuristic is not about having limited inputs, it's about getting a good, but not necessarily the best, result. It's a fantastic word, but I just want to make sure that distinction is clear. These are called partially observable problems in AI. – Dan Oct 15 '15 at 17:16

An option might be guesstimate:

to estimate without substantial basis in facts or statistics

However, this doesn't really convey that you have "some information but not enough", so it may not be suitable, depending on the situation. Perhaps the phrase educated guess might work better:

a guess based on knowledge and experience, making it more likely to be correct

Of the two, I would say guesstimate is the more derogatory, as it implies less of a basis in knowledge/information.

Definitions courtesy of dictionary.reference.com


SWAG. Scientific Wild Ass Guess. Technically an acronym. A popular term frequently used by military.



This sounds like making an executive decision. Technically, it's a decision the boss makes, but colloquially, it's used in the context of choosing from limited options.


Try looking at "bounded rationality" in Wikipedia. Might work.

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