I am facing a problem during programming. I am trying to describe a collection of three words. Is there a word for yes, no and unknown ?

The words for example could describe if someone is authorized to do something, so I could call the collection Authorization. I could describe if someone is certain, so I could call it certainty. My question is, is there a "meta" word for that ?

You could for example say light blue, royal blue, airforce blue and sky blue are words to describe blue but the "meta" word for that would be colour.

The context in which I am trying to use that word is, as stated above, a programming scenario

public enum MISSINGWORD
    unknown = 0,
    Yes = 1,
    No = 2,

I don't have a real live example, where you would need that word other then describing the abstract collection of those three words without any adjective tied to it.

  • 1
    You could say you're implementing Three-state logic using a tri-state flag. Aug 12, 2016 at 15:17
  • Of interest: thedailywtf.com/articles/What_Is_Truth_0x3f_
    – cobaltduck
    Aug 12, 2016 at 15:21
  • @FumbleFingers - in understanding the state of circuits, 'unknown' is X, not the z which corresponds to the high impedance state of tri-state circuits. I do think this question refers to state, regardless. In logic design, we'd refer to the state of a latch being 1, 0, or-- given a powerup sequence which cannot guarantee either state-- X, meaning unknown. A set or reset forces the state to a known value.
    – stevesliva
    Aug 12, 2016 at 15:24
  • @stevesliva: I don't do electrical circuits, but I wrote program code for decades, in which context I made extensive use of "tri-state flags" - integers where 0/1 had the usual sense False/True, No/Yes, with -1 being reserved for Not yet set, Unknown. Aug 12, 2016 at 17:43
  • @FumbleFingers - you linked to an article about logic circuits. For those circuits, specifically, the 3rd state is Z. Not an unknown state, but Z. In verilog HDL, the Z state (high-impedance) is a different state than the X state (unknown). I'm aware of programming constructs like optionals (specifically optional bools) in Swift that support true/false/unknown. It's just that, being a circuit guy as well as a programming guy, I can't see a list of "true/false/unknown" likened to tri-state logic-- this is a specific, physical type of circuit, not just a term-- and not quibble.
    – stevesliva
    Aug 12, 2016 at 21:04

2 Answers 2


These are Ternary values (AKA trivalent values). A variable holding such value is sometimes called a Trilean.

Instead of using Bivalent variables and some Bivalent logical system (Boolean logic is the most common), you are using Trivalent variables. Several ternary logical systems (e.g. Kleene, Priest and Łukasiewicz) are defined with Trivalent variables .


I would go for (degree of) Certainty as in:

cer•tain•ty /ˈsɝtənti/ the state of being certain [uncountable]

Or even better: Trueness

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