Is there any word to describe a situation in which one is undecided about the relative desirability of two mutually exclusive alternatives in an abstract sense? For example, as regards the relative merits of doing X and not doing X, I have always been in a state of ____. As regards which of the two ideologies is more suited to my temperament, I have been in a state of ______.

"vacillation" is one word I thought about. But "vacillation" seems to be rather concrete in the sense that it seems to be more apt for common alternatives such as "My vacillation in regard to wearing a suit on that occasion led to a delay in my departure". Are there other words or phrases or idioms that describe what I have in mind?

  • A state of neutrality. But that's a little grandiose for not caring one way or another. Six of one, half a dozen of another. Es macht mir nicht, I think the Germans say?
    – Xanne
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 3:02

2 Answers 2


You could try ambivalence

Defined by Merriam Webster as:

1 : simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (such as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action felt ambivalence toward his powerful father ambivalence toward marriage

2 a : continual fluctuation (as between one thing and its opposite) b : uncertainty as to which approach to follow ambivalence about their goals



Merriam-Webster has four variations on what you want:

2a : a place or state of restraint or confinement

2b : a place or state of neglect or oblivion

2c : an intermediate or transitional place or state

2d : a state of uncertainty

Here's an example I've contrived:

My travel plans are in limbo until one of the companies I interviewed with makes me an offer.

  • I thought of "limbo" but the only meanings I saw in wordweb did not include 2d. "limbo" is right. Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 4:48

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