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Facing a situation that needs a decision, a person says yes then in a minute later changes it to no, but he/she does it several times and does not have a real decision eventually.

What is the single word for it? If I translate directly from my native language, it comes to "unreliable". But, I don't quite agree with it, because it's a typical characteristic of people who hardly decides.

How about wishy washy?

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    That person is Confused Jan 6 '16 at 8:33
  • 4
    I think mother would also be a good word. Jan 6 '16 at 11:19
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    I like wishy washy, myself. Jan 6 '16 at 13:12
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    Richard II
    – orome
    Jan 6 '16 at 13:56
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    Agree with @ToddWilcox. Wishy washy is a great fit for informal conversation.
    – jpmc26
    Jan 6 '16 at 16:21

12 Answers 12

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This person is a vacillator. ​

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    Is this an especially common term? I wouldn't expect to hear it in everyday conversation. It seems more suited to a more formal or extremely polite context.
    – jpmc26
    Jan 6 '16 at 16:22
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    @jpmc26 -- "Vacillate", "vacillating" and "vacillated" are reasonably common, in contexts where the audience is educated. These words describe exactly what the original poster is asking about. I do not know any other single-word terms that have this specific meaning. Thesaurus.com suggests "alternate", but "alternate" is a much more general term. The most common meaning of "alternator" is a mechanical-electrical device to convert direct current into alternating current.
    – Jasper
    Jan 6 '16 at 16:35
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    I'm a native speaker who enjoys obscure words, and I had never heard this before. (I'm familiar with the verb "to vacillate", but I'd never heard it as a noun before.) Just a note to the OP: if you use this word in conversation, be prepared to be explain what it means.
    – apsillers
    Jan 6 '16 at 17:21
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    I was going to suggest "dither" or "vacillate" for the verbs and "ambivalent" for the adjective form just off the top of my head. It's not "basic English" but it is in common use in my circles.
    – The Nate
    Jan 6 '16 at 20:19
  • Adam tends to oscillate between yes and no. He is an oscillator.
    – Khan
    Jan 15 '16 at 5:17
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ditherer   noun   One who dithers; one who is unable to decide; a procrastinator.
          https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ditherer

dither    verb    To be uncertain or unable to make a decision about doing something.
      noun   The state of being undecided.
          https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dither

(One technological use of the word dithering is to add fuzz on both sides of an edge in a computer image.)

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    It sounds like the problem in the OP's example isn't with making a decision, but rather with sticking with one.
    – cHao
    Jan 6 '16 at 12:30
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    The meaning of dithering in technological context is a little different, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dither.
    – JimmyB
    Jan 6 '16 at 14:56
  • Indeed, @HannoBinder, dithering has broader technological usage than my example. Thank you for the link, my wording now begins "One technological use ... ." This example comes from personal experience.
    – lauir
    Jan 6 '16 at 21:08
  • Dither as I (a native speaker) understand it, means to be unable to make a decision. The OP seems to be asking a about someone who makes a decision, then changes it, then changes it again, which imho does not match dither.
    – GoDucks
    Jan 7 '16 at 15:40
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Some single word adjectives for someone who is constantly changing their mind:

indecisive
flip-flop
tempermental

Indecisive has the meaning of not being able to make a decision
Flip-flop describes an action of one side to the other side
Tempermental describes someone who runs hot and cold

All of these words describe a to-ing and fro-ing, back and forth

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    Please edit to include an explanation of why this is correct; answers without explanation do not teach the patterns of the language well. Jan 6 '16 at 23:01
  • @NathanTuggy Thanks for the feedback, I thought I had put those in originally. Answer has been edited
    – Peter
    Jan 7 '16 at 17:28
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    Temperamental might not be the best choice from this list because it is commonly used in regards to a person's "emotional temperament" - quickly becoming "hot", also known as "angry", rather than just changing their mind about something. If someone were described as temperamental I would think that meant they become very angry at a moment's notice - probably regarding certain topics. Jan 7 '16 at 21:45
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waffler

This one is a noun. I'm surprised it hasn't already been taken. :)

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  • I always thought of a waffler as one who can not make up their mind (to begin with) as opposed to making a decision then changing it. Good word though
    – Peter
    Jan 7 '16 at 17:31
  • @Peter I thought about that too. But I looked it up a bit and I think the usage can cover a change of mind after the decision as well.
    – shawnt00
    Jan 7 '16 at 17:35
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    "He waffled about whether he wanted a waffle", but I can see "He chose a waffle, and then waffled", which sounds like he ate the waffle when in fact he may have ate the waffle or may not have eaten the waffle (how many times can one mention waffle in a comment, oh, there's another one...)
    – Peter
    Jan 7 '16 at 17:50
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    @Peter If you told me someone was a waffler I'd think you meant they talked almost continuously without saying anything important. I hadn't heard this meaning before.
    – CJ Dennis
    Jan 8 '16 at 10:13
  • @CJDennis Waffle has both the meaning of being evasive and incessant, the latter is to waffle on a subject as opposed to waffle on a decision
    – Peter
    Jan 8 '16 at 10:21
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There could be more than one word but you can use 'dilemma'. So, if a person cannot decide things...

S/he is always in dilemma.

Another option is...

The person is indecisive.

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    Indecisive, yes; dilemma, not so much. A dilemma is a situation that would normally give anyone trouble with the decision, while this is someone who acts as though faced with a dilemma even for decisions that are no such thing. Jan 6 '16 at 5:54
  • @NathanTuggy I think dilemma could go with it; irrespective of the intelligence of a person, ultimately, there's no decision made. First saying 'yes' and then saying 'no' and then finally, no decision. If this happens every time, I'd certainly call him/her a person who is always in dilemma (i.e. doesn't know what to decide/choose). But yes, 'indecisive' is more accurate.
    – Maulik V
    Jan 6 '16 at 5:57
  • I would upvote this for indecisive but I would downvote it for dilemma so you end up with nothing ....
    – Tim B
    Jan 6 '16 at 12:40
  • "Dilemma" may apply in such a case, but not like that. Someone who faces a dilemma may well freeze or go back and fourth, but that's not implied or denoted by the term. "In dilemma" sounds grammatically incorrect to me, too, but I'm not going to argue that point.
    – The Nate
    Jan 6 '16 at 20:28
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    In formal US English, "in a dilemma" is preferred. Dropping the article "a" (or "the") does sound like something Brit.E. would allow, hence my wording.
    – The Nate
    Jan 7 '16 at 9:22
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Most of the answers here work (though many are a bit judgmental), but the correct answer will depend on the speaker's mental state or motivations.

For example, in addition to the possibilities already mentioned, the person might simply be conflicted (as, famously, Shakespeare's Richard II).

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You may also use "fickle minded"

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  • I'd thought of this too. +1 it is a good option.
    – Maulik V
    Jan 6 '16 at 7:48
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    Please edit to include an explanation of why this is correct; answers without explanation do not teach the patterns of the language well. Jan 6 '16 at 23:00
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    Fickle itself fits the bill.
    – GoDucks
    Jan 6 '16 at 23:44
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"Irresolute" could fit in well.

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  • On these lines: "uncertain" or "unconvinced" could serve, too, and probably sound more casual. "Resolute" sounds old fashioned to me. That's fine, mind, but may not be the goal.
    – The Nate
    Jan 6 '16 at 20:44
  • Please edit to include an explanation of why this is correct; answers without explanation do not teach the patterns of the language well. Jan 6 '16 at 22:59
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"Hesitant", was the first thing that popped into my mind, although it might apply more to a person who does not decide at all.

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hesitant, temperamental, indecisive, irresolute, tentative.

Any of those words should work appropriately for describing such a person.

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  • Please edit to include an explanation of why this is correct; answers without explanation do not teach the patterns of the language well. Jan 6 '16 at 22:59
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I would go with "capricious".

Often, it goes together in the expression "arbitrary and capricious", which sounds like it might fit, too.

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If the person doesn't commit strongly to either yes or no (rather than e.g. expressing a strong opinion one way, then changing their mind to a strong opinion the opposite way) they could be described as an equivocator:

a respondent who avoids giving a clear direct answer

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