This is for an item in a collection (like a bag), that may or may not be present. Basically, it's presence is not guaranteed, but it is valid to go search for it.

The exact situation I'm in is I'm designing a RESTful API and trying to describe a property for a route that could return a 404. It's not so much that it's optional, it's just that the item with this ID hasn't been created yet.

I'm using RAML to design this and want a good name for my trait.

The qualifier for a good name for my trait is: that it fits well with this sentence structure: "projects are X", where X is the trait name. So: "pluralNoun are adjective".

This is the qualifier because the trait is referenced in the markup like: is: [X]. So, I want something that flows well with is or are.

Is there a term for this? Right now, the only thing I've got is "missingable", which is obviously made up and... non-ideal. I'm not wild about optional, because the item isn't really optional, it just doesn't exist yet. I searched and searched online and couldn't find anything that fit my bill, so I came here!

Thanks in advance!


I ended up using potentially_absent as my RAML trait name, but I think I'll use unaccounted in the next revision!

closed as off-topic by Hot Licks, user140086, Drew, Hellion, tchrist Feb 13 '16 at 13:07

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  • "Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests" – Community, Hellion, tchrist
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  • Why not say ...could possibly be missing? – WS2 Feb 12 '16 at 21:27
  • I was really looking for a single adjective when I opened the question. Since then I've realized that's not required at all, and I ended up using potentially absent, so that's basically the same thing. The end use of this word is to describe a trait for something in CS, so a single word was desirable, but not required. Anyway, TL;DR; I basically did that after other people talked me to my senses =D. – hjc1710 Feb 12 '16 at 21:31
  • Well, the item's presence is indeterminate. Don – rhetorician Feb 12 '16 at 21:50
  • Description updated to hopefully move this off "On Hold". to make me happier =). Let me know if editing the answer or providing more detail would be helpful! – hjc1710 Feb 16 '16 at 0:49

How about a potential property? I would usually use that for a term that may or may not be present. (Posting as an answer at your request.)

  • Just to wrap it all up, I ended up using potentially_absent after John got the idea in my brain. Thanks again! Couldn't come up with that word to save my life! – hjc1710 Feb 12 '16 at 21:02

In computer science, we always call such things optional.

  • Hmmmmm... That's not bad, I didn't think of it like that. But, since you're CS, I can go a bit more in depth. I'm designing an API and trying to describe a property for a route that could return a 404. It's not so much that it's optional, it's just that the item with this ID hasn't been created yet. Think optional fits that? Or got something better? – hjc1710 Feb 12 '16 at 20:15
  • 1
    How about a potential property? – John Clifford Feb 12 '16 at 20:22
  • Oooo, I like that more than optional @JohnClifford, thanks. I think I'll use that for now, but it's sort of like the inverse of what I want. Whereas potential means: "having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future." I'm looking for: "having or showing the ability to be absent." It's splitting hairs, so I'm going with that for now, but I still feel that there should be a term for what I want. Thanks! – hjc1710 Feb 12 '16 at 20:53
  • After John got my brain seeded with potential, I ended up using potentially_absent for the property. Thanks! I think that's perfect! If you wanna make an answer for me to accept, I'll happily do that @JohnClifford. – hjc1710 Feb 12 '16 at 20:56

I'd go with unaccounted for, and if you must go with a single word, unaccounted. The meaning is precisely what you are asking for: possibly missing, and certainly valid to be searched for.

  • Oh wow! I really like this one! I sort of settled on potentially_absent for this round of my documentation, but I think I'll either refactor to use unaccounted or do that in a future revision. Thanks so much for your input! Leaving the original answer as accepted (because I said I would), but I upvoted ya! – hjc1710 Feb 16 '16 at 0:42
  • Thanks buddy! Yeah, I was a little disappointed that you picked the original answer, because I really liked mine. But I really appreciate you taking the time to pass along the comment. I really wanted to help, but at least you liked the word/phrase! :-) – M. E. Feb 16 '16 at 1:16
  • Hey man, you commented on my question! The least I can do is reply! I appreciate any input given, for sure =). – hjc1710 Feb 19 '16 at 22:05

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