I am trying to come up with a word or phrase that means "one out of a series must be true".

Example #1:

I have a list of roles that a user can belong to. What is a word that describes a list of roles where the user may belong to one of them? They could belong to more than one.

Example #2:

There is a list of requirements to be eligible for a prize. You may meet multiple requirements, but you only need to meet one requirement to be eligible.

Sentence example: The following roles are _______.

The best that I can come up with is "required roles", but, that seems funky to me as not all of the roles are required.

  • 1
    I'd like to make a request: How would you use this word in a sentence? (You can insert a _______ where you would put the word you're trying to find.)
    – J.R.
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:37
  • @J.R., can you clarify what goes in the blank in your comment? Are you asking Ek0nomik to specify part-of-speech, via a term like noun, adjective, etc.? Jun 25, 2012 at 19:41
  • @jwpat: I'm just trying to get a better idea of how the word would be used. (I think I could probably derive the part-of-speech from the sentence). As an example, I think the O.P. of #71317 did a good job on this; I thought something similar here could be helpful for everyone.
    – J.R.
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:46
  • @J.R. - I just edited my answer; hopefully it adds a little more context. Jun 25, 2012 at 19:50
  • 2
    @Ek0nomik To clarify: by "funky", do you mean malodorous, passionate, terrified, authentic, or cool?
    – Daniel
    Jun 25, 2012 at 20:36

7 Answers 7


The way I would generally address your first case is by looking at it one level of abstraction up: a role is required, and the role may be any one of the list of possible cases.

You could possibly say about your second case that each requirement is sufficient (as in the concepts of sufficiency and necessity in logic). Having a bunch of sufficient conditions implies that you have to have at least one of them, otherwise there are zero sufficient conditions and the statement fails.

I wouldn't use that term in user interface, but it may be helpful for internal nomenclature.

  • I'm marking this as the answer since your mention of sufficient versus necessity got me down the right path. Thanks for the answer! Jun 27, 2012 at 14:42
  • @Ek0nomik: What solution did you end up using?
    – chaos
    Jun 27, 2012 at 15:00
  • It was essentially a programming name question, but I feel like there just isn't a great set of names to use. I ended up using SufficientRoles and MandatoryRoles. Basically I have two sets of roles. Every role in MandatoryRoles must be met, while the user only needs to be in at least one role of the SufficientRoles. I've never had such a hard time naming something. Jun 27, 2012 at 15:19

Example 1 isn't quite the same as Example 2, to my mind:

I'd state the former as 'One of the following roles is mandatory.' The second one can be stated as : 'All these roles are prizewinning.' Or 'Any one of the following roles qualify you for a prize.'


If the user can belong to only one, the roles are mutually exclusive because belonging to any one excludes membership of all the others.

I'm not entirely sure that "Mutually inclusive" describes roles the user must belong to; "compulsory roles" might be better.

  • Thank you for the response. The user could belong to more than one, so mutually exclusive wouldn't work. I like your "compulsory roles" suggestion though. Jun 25, 2012 at 19:05

In computer user interfaces, I think it's common to say "required field" for anything where the user must make SOME selection. This is most often applied to text entry, to indicate that you cannot leave it blank, but it also often used for multiple-choice lists.

If you're afraid of ambiguity, you could always say "Role (choose at least one)".

I can't think of a commonly-used word that means "you must select at least one from the following list". If someone else here thinks of such a word, I'll be happy to upvote you. :-) If there's an obscure word, it probably doesn't do you much good, as by definition that means most of your users wouldn't know what it means. I'd rather use four common words that people understand than one obscure word that no one understands.

  • 2
    +1 for your last two sentences. I can't tell you how many times I've had that same thought when mulling over «single-word-request» questions (particularly after an answer gets downvoted, with the comment "but that isn't just one word.")
    – J.R.
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:54
  • Now that the question has been edited out of all recognition, this is the best answer (so far!). I'd add "must" though: "Role (you must choose at least one)".
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 25, 2012 at 20:03

I see a problem with OP's "sentence example" The following roles are ------, because that would imply the target word somehow describes each role. But what OP actually seeks is a word describing the list.

The first list is an exhaustive list, meaning that it contains all possible roles.

If it's only possible to choose one role from the list, it contains mutually exclusive options.

If it's necessary for every user to choose a role, this would normally be described as a mandatory or compulsory choice. But note that this description applies to the act of making a choice, not to the list as a whole, or any individual roles within it.

The second example is somewhat different - it's not actually mandatory that the user should meet any of the requirements (he just won't be eligible for a prize if he doesn't). I would describe this situation by saying he must meet at least one of the eligibility criteria to have a chance of winning.

  • Why has this answer been downvoted without even the courtesy of adding a comment? I think it's a valid point... +1 from me simply to compensate the downvote. Jun 26, 2012 at 4:20
  • @aaamos: That's very noble-spirited of you, thanks. Here's another mystery downvote if you're minded to go crusading on my behalf! Jun 26, 2012 at 12:11
  • Heh, given that that answer has >0 votes and has been accepted, I don't think you need my help there ;-) (Or here, for that matter, but it's a matter of principle.) Incidentally, I've been unable to resist upvoting @chaos' answer for the same reason. Jun 26, 2012 at 12:50
  • @aaamos: You're right - I don't really need to go courting the "sympathy vote" here on ELU. But I do just get a bit niggled by cases like these, where I can't even come up with a possible reason for the downvote. I've just upvoted chaos's answer myself, because sufficient could be a useful word in this context - "both necessary and sufficient" is a well-worn phrase. Jun 26, 2012 at 18:12

It's a list of alternatives? (Or non-exclusive alternatives?)

The user should pick a nonempty subset.

(Logically, it's a disjunction. I.e., there's an OR between all of the roles.)


The reason why no single answer seems to fit your question perfectly is, as @FumbleFingers points out, because there is some confusion about whether the word or phrase should apply to each criterion or to the list of criteria.

I would, in fact, stipulate that what you're looking for relates to the relationship between each criterion and the list of criteria, which makes this difficult, because a word or phrase describing either one (but not both) is insufficient.

Sometimes, the answer is already embedded in the question - what's wrong with simply saying: "One of the following roles is compulsory/required"?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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