In mathematics, particularly in formal algebra, an indeterminate is a symbol that is treated as a variable, does not stand for anything else except itself. It may be used as a placeholder in objects such as polynomials and formal power series. In particular:
- It does not designate a constant or a parameter of the problem.
- It is not an unknown that could be solved for.
- It is not a variable designating a function argument, or a variable being summed or integrated over.
- It is not any type of bound variable.
- It is just a symbol used in an entirely formal way.
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By a common abuse of language, mathematical texts may not clearly distinguish indeterminates from ordinary variables.