This word is most often used in reference to a tomato category, in which case determinate refers to the growing habit of plants that are bushy, grow to a specific point, set fruit all at once, with that fruit ripening over a short (two to four week) period. Such plants do not require staking, although caging is usually recommended.
When this plant trait was first observed and commented on, the term used was “self-topper”, an indication that the plants did not require “topping” or pruning, as was the norm for commercial growers accustomed to dealing with their indeterminate (or vining) tomatoes.
In a broader sense, the word determinate can be used to describe the growth habit of any species that fits this generally accepted definition. Modern bush beans that have been developed for mechanical harvesting, for example, are said to be determinate. In addition, there is the notion of a “semi-determinate” growth habit. Bean plants exhibiting this trait are commonly referred to as a “half-runners”. These are usually short compact bushes which meet the main qualifications for being determinate, and in addition to producing a primary crop will usually produce short runners which offer the possibility of additional fruit.