I understand the word "idempotent" to describe an action where the second time that action is applied, it has no additional effect. In other words, redundant operations have no effect.

The first usage of the word seems to have been made in a mathematical context, but it is also widespread in computer science (see usage here). As a computer science student this terminology is very useful, but it can also feel odd saying the word. There are even stackexchange questions asking how to pronounce it!

I'd like to be able to express the meaning of the word idempotent in a casual setting using only one word without sounding too technical (a two-word solution may also be interesting).

I tried to find synonyms in a dictionary but found none. I tried to translate to other languages to see if I could adopt a new word, but I couldn't find one.

As a last resort, I don't mind if I have to create my own word or phrase. I was thinking of saying something has "null redundancy". Maybe I could shorten it to be "nullred", but that sounds silly.

Sample Sentence

A credit card transaction should be < word > so that you don't get charged twice.

Another example

Instead of saying "It doesn't do anything the second time", shorten to "It isn't < word >"

I don't care whether the word is a noun, verb, or adjective as long as it makes sense. I think it is best suited as a noun and adjective though.


Do any synonyms of the word idempotent actually exist?

Using latin roots or some other method, can you make a substitute word that you think makes sense?

  • For a word with such a precise definition I doubt if you will get much shorter than something like : A credit card transaction should be such that, it can be applied multiple times without changing the result beyond the initial application so that you don't get charged twice. which is based on the wikipedia entry. – k1eran Nov 18 '19 at 18:51
  • Personally I think replacing the word idempotent, will likely make the sentence less clear. – k1eran Nov 18 '19 at 18:51
  • 4
    The meaning itself is fairly technical, and therefore doesn't have plainspoken synonyms. To take one example, immutable means not subject to change, which doesn't quite get at the idea that the function should occur once. Singular gets at the idea that it happens once, but not that it shouldn't change if the function is applied again. There's no plainspoken way I know of to explain, in a single word, the property of an elevator button that activates on the first press but does nothing thereafter. And don't coin a new word, like unimutable and monotransformable - they sound weird. – TaliesinMerlin Nov 18 '19 at 19:37
  • @TaliesInMerlin As you mention, I don't think a synonym does exist, nor do I expect it to since the term is technical. To your other point: even though new words sound weird I'd still like to hear people's suggestions. One of them might surprisingly fit. – Matt Nov 18 '19 at 21:19
  • Not synonyms but some suggestions: one-time operation, one-time effect/effectiveness, unrepeatable. – 0.. Nov 19 '19 at 1:50

There is a level of ambiguity in this question. It it the physical act of making transactions that should not be repeated—or is it the charge being applied against the card (regardless of the number of transaction attempts) that should not be repeated?

Multiple Card Swipes

The most idiomatic way of saying it would be:

A credit card transaction should not be repeated so that you don't get charged twice.

But that uses a three-word verbal phrase.

Merriam-Webster defines the adjective unrepeated:

: not repeated

As such, the sentence could be phrased:

A credit card transaction should be unrepeated so that you don't get charged twice.

Although unrepeated is an actually defined word that nobody would misunderstand, it doesn't sound as normal as not to be repeated.

If it's not a problem forming a word from the normal rules of syntax, you could take the prefix non and apply it to the more normal adjective repetitive:

A credit card transaction should be nonrepetitive so that you don't get charged twice.

While I don't find nonrepetitive in Merriam-Webster or Oxford (at least in their online version), it does exist in more minor dictionaries such as The Free Dictionary and Vocabulary.com.

Multiple Bank Charges

To mirror the previous sense, the most idiomatic way of saying this would be:

A credit card transaction should not be accruable so that you don't get charged twice.

From Merriam-Webster's definition of the verb accrue, from which accruable is formed:

3 : to accumulate or be added periodically
// interest accrues on a daily basis

Various websites use the word nonaccrual; for instance, Investopedia defines nonaccrual loans.

As such, it's not a stretch to think that the single-word form of the adjective to use in this sense could be nonaccruable:

A credit card transaction should be nonaccruable so that you don't get charged twice.

  • Regarding accrue, credit card transactions can get added periodically. I have several things charged automatically to my card every month. Also for those that don't pay their credit card bill interest will accrue. – nnnnnn Nov 24 '19 at 9:00

Possibly not quite what you're looking for but the word "debounced" comes to mind for me. As a hardware tech, to me it means performing only one action from multiple repeats of an input within a defined period of time.


To remove the small ripple of current that forms when a mechanical switch is pushed in an electrical circuit and makes a series of short contacts. https://www.definitions.net/definition/debounce



Bouncing is the tendency of any two metal contacts in an electronic device to generate multiple signals as the contacts close or open; debouncing is any kind of hardware device or software that ensures that only a single signal will be acted upon for a single opening or closing of a contact.

Accepted use seems to be specific to multiple closures of the electrical contacts in a switch being acted on only once within a (usually short) debounce time, but I think the meaning of the word can be expanded to apply to longer time periods and other inputs, and could be used in your application if you're happy to forge a new use for it.


A credit card transaction should be debounced so that you don't get charged twice.

You never know it could catch on...

  • 1
    Sorry, Peter. ELU looks at standard usages (ie ones actually used). Do you really think that "A credit card transaction should be debounced" (b) is used by, (a) would be understood by, the general Anglophone? OP should'nt have added the rider about a DIY candidate being acceptable ... that's not on-topic here. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 6 '20 at 17:42
  • 1
    Thanks Edwin, I misunderstood. I have worked with microprocessors for years and have seen many examples of recently coined words becoming commonly accepted and used over relatively short periods of time. The word idempotent seems to date from the late 19th century when binary mathematics and set theory was being developed. I misread the question as asking for suggestions for a (possibly invented) word that might describe the process of disregarding repeats of the same stimulus within a short time period, when writing software. My familiarity with debouncing an input made it seem a possibility. – PeterH Mar 6 '20 at 21:57
  • Hmm. 'Should'nt' shouldn't have been 'should'nt'. // 'Debouncing' sounds too good to be left for just technowhizzes to enjoy. I hope it gets recognised by say OED (in a broadened sense) soon. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 7 '20 at 11:23

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