# How to describe the state of an n-state system?

Often I need to use a generic description to explain a system that has multiple states.

For instance if I am explaining that a message can be urgent or non-urgent, I could say:

Message priority (urgent or non-urgent) is given to messages based on it's urgencyness.

This is a trite example, because we have a word for this, and it is 'urgency'.

Message priority is given to messages based on it's urgency.

However there are scenarios where there isn't an adjective, or we need to highlight multiple states.

For example, if an action can have a state of 'emergency' or 'non-emergency':

Action priority is given to an action based on it's emergencyness.

Here the word emergency doesn't work, and adding 'ness' to the end does not seem formally correct (it should be however easy to understand).

I have taken in some cases to (ab)using the word parity:

MATHEMATICS (of a number) the fact of being even or odd.

As a shorthand to explain something, albeit clumsily.

Action priority is given to an action based on it's emergency parity.

This falls down in cases where there are multiple states an object can be in, e.g. Old, Recent, New.

Is there a single word that can be used to explain a non-trivial system, with fixed states, without listing them:

Emails are coloured based on their Age _______

• Emails are coloured based on their age. Action priority is assigned based on its urgency. (emergency seems to be on a continuum of urgency- more urgent than urgent) which is really just: Action priority is assigned based on its deadline.
– Jim
Commented May 1, 2019 at 13:12
• @Jim this is a single-word-request looking to cover a word for all of those (and more unstated) examples. Commented May 1, 2019 at 13:14
• I think my point was that to assign something, you must measure something and then see where that measurement falls on the scale. You can say something is urgent or not but you are implicitly saying its deadline is near or far. Perhaps by looking at what is measured you can find the specific word to use in each case.
– Jim
Commented May 1, 2019 at 13:26
• @jim Do I have to edit in more examples to show that just reusing one of the words doesn't every time? Commented May 1, 2019 at 14:50
• No, that’s clear I think. My point is: Heat Level: (Hot, Cold, Freezing) Effectiveness: (Extreme, moderate, somewhat, none) Volume: (Loud, moderate, soft, faint) what is measured? For heat level: Temperature. For Effectiveness: Time to respond. For Volume: sound pressure level. Etc. Therefore: Heat level is assigned based on temperature. Effectiveness is assigned based on time to respond. Volume is assigned based on sound pressure level. Action priority is assigned based on time before deadline. Some things are trivial: Height (Tall, Medium, Short) is assigned based on ... Height.
– Jim
Commented May 1, 2019 at 15:06

In explaining this question well enough to post it, I have come across a word that fits my needs:

## category

### /ˈkatəɡ(ə)ri/

noun noun: category; plural noun: categories 1. a class or division of people or things regarded as having particular shared characteristics.
"the various categories of research"

The given sentences become:

Action priority is given to an action based on it's emergency category

Emails are coloured based on their age category

• but 'age' and 'emergency' are the categories. What you want is the value or degree.
– AmI
Commented May 1, 2019 at 12:11
• @AmI but 'Emergency Value' and 'Emergency Degree' don't scan as well to me. Commented May 1, 2019 at 12:25
• Similar to category is classification.
– Jim
Commented May 2, 2019 at 1:33