What is the difference between 'finite' and 'definite'? Can they be used interchangeably?
1 2
Finite = limited in number or magnitude.
Definite = specific, explicit, certain.

I would have to see specific context to judge their interchangeability there.


    1. Having bounds; limited: a finite list of choices; our finite fossil fuel reserves.
    2. Existing, persisting, or enduring for a limited time only; impermanent.

    3. Mathematics.
      1. Being neither infinite nor infinitesimal.
      2. Having a positive or negative numerical value; not zero.
      3. Possible to reach or exceed by counting. Used of a number.
      4. Having a limited number of elements. Used of a set.

      5. Grammar. Of or relating to any of the forms of a verb that can occur on their own in a main clause and that can formally express distinctions in person, number, tense, mood, and voice, often by means of conjugation, as the verb sees in She sees the sign.

      6. definite:

        1. Having distinct limits: definite restrictions on the sale of alcohol.
        2. Indisputable; certain: a definite victory.
        3. Clearly defined; explicitly precise: a definite statement of the terms of the will.
        4. Grammar. Limiting or particularizing.
        5. Botany.

        6. a) Of a specified number not exceeding 20, as certain floral organs, especially stamens.

          b) Cymose; determinate.

          I hope it helps!

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Thanks MM. A teacher says to a student:

(1) "I need a finite answer"

(2) "I need a definite answer".
RishonlyWhat is the difference between 'finite' and 'definite'? Can they be used interchangeably?
Hello Krish

Your question is interesting. Actually, "finite" and "definite" both mean "fixed" or "limited", although they are used differently in English grammar.

"Finite" comes from Latin "finitus", which is the past participle of the verb "finire" (to put an end). "Definite" comes from Latin "definitus", which is the past participle of the verb"definire" (to end, to terminate, to define). Please remind that the Latin prefix "de-" is used in various ways. Here "de-" is used as a verbal prefix to give a notion of completeness to the original verb. It is somewhat similar to English adverb "away" or "up". The pairs of "declare"/"clear", "declaim"/"claim", "denude"/"nude", "depart"/"part" are cousins of the pair "define"/"finish".

(1) "I need a finite answer" -- odd; I cannot think of an appropriate situation

(2) "I need a definite answer"-- the teacher wants a specific answer, not a vague one or continued waffling.
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Thanks for your insights, Paco2004. You mentioned "The pairs....are cousins of the pair "define/finish". Do you mean "definite/finite"?
I talked about the Latin verbal prefix "de-". English verb "define" comes from Latin verb "definir" and English verb "finish" comes from Old French verb form "feniss-" that had its origin in Latin verb "finir". So, we may say define/finish was a pair in Latin.

Got it;thanks again, Paco2004.
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