How do you call a process/phenomenon that can have multiple causes? For example, a disease can result from many factors (not necessarily their interplay but instead when different causes manifest in different age/genetic groups). I am seeking for a noun (if not, an adjective), primarily in the context of studying such a phenomenon (a "nightmare" doesn't work) - a "multiroot", a "bundle" but more scientific.


  • The mechanism of the process is still debated and may be a multiroot (=multiple mechanisms can operate simultaneously to cause the process).
  • 1
    It would really help if you could use it in a sentence. Just about everything has multiple causes.
    – Xanne
    Apr 12, 2017 at 20:40
  • 1
    This Stroke Journal article article seems to use 'multicause' as a common premodifier. Apr 12, 2017 at 21:12
  • According to scientists from Berkley, "shoelace knot failure" is triggered by a "complex interaction of forces": bbc.com/news/science-environment-39575454
    – user221615
    Apr 13, 2017 at 4:26

3 Answers 3


The word multifactorial seems appropriate for an adjective.

having or stemming from a number of different causes or influences: Some medical researchers regard cancer as a multifactorial disease.


Although often used in medicine, the definition is certainly broad enough to apply to other fields. It's also a technical term, so it seems like it could apply to the question as you described it.

Coming up with a noun is difficult. I keep thinking of manifold, but I can't find a definition that's abstract enough to apply to your request for a general term.

Per Wikipedia, one definition:

A manifold is a wide and/or bigger pipe, or channel, into which smaller pipes or channels lead.


You could appropriate that term to describe systems or processes as well, but I can't say that it has a prescribed definition that applies precisely what you're looking for.


Multidetermined and overdetermined are both adjectives.


Determined by multiple factors. (Wiktionary)


having more than one determining psychological factor : affording an outlet for more than a single wish or need an overdetermined dream symbol (MW)


Contributory Causes appears to be the common term for those causes that, when taken together, describe multiple causes that taken individually would not produce a given result.

Under the heading of Necessary and Sufficient Causes, a Wikipedia article describes contributory causes as

A factor that is a contributory cause is one amongst several co-occurrent causes...In general, a factor that is a contributory cause is not sufficient, because it is by definition accompanied by other causes, which would not count as causes if it were sufficient. For the specific effect, a factor that is on some occasions a contributory cause might on some other occasions be sufficient, but on those other occasions it would not be merely contributory.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.