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ambiguity

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noun am·bi·gu·i·ty \ˌam-bə-ˈgyü-ə-tē\

Simple Definition of ambiguity

  • : something that does not have a single clear meaning : something that is ambiguous

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of ambiguity

plural

ambiguities

  1. 1 a :  the quality or state of being ambiguous especially in meaning (see ambiguous) b :  a word or expression that can be understood in two or more possible ways :  an ambiguous word or expression

  2. 2 :  uncertainty

Examples of ambiguity in a sentence

  1. A third factor amping your desire to speed things along: Despite the euphoria of those first kisses and dates, the initial stages of infatuation can be incredibly unsettling. “You aren't sure yet where you stand with your mate, so you're anxious to shake the ambiguity,” explains Regan. —Molly Triffin et al., Cosmopolitan, January 2008

  2. The troubles in the Empire at the turn of the seventeenth century have often been laid at the door of the Peace of Augsburg. While it is true that the 1555 agreement papered over some unsolvable problems and contained ambiguities and loopholes, it had been conceived as a pragmatic compromise, and it did succeed in preserving the peace in Germany for one generation. —Alison D. Anderson, On the Verge of War, 1999

  3. Her letters and diaries describe her own feelings of insecurity and worries about her possible fate if she could no longer work, and they also tell us a great deal about the ambiguity of her position within the society in which she lived, and her determination to defend and maintain her own status. —Joanna Martin, A Governess In the Age of Jane Austen, 1998

  4. Above the level of molecular biology, the notion of “gene” has become increasingly complex. The chapter in which Ridley addresses the ambiguities of this slippery word is an expository tour de force. He considers seven possible meanings of gene as used in different contexts: a unit of heredity; an interchangeable part of evolution; a recipe for a metabolic product; … a development switch; a unit of selection; and a unit of instinct. —Raymond Tallis, Prospect, September 2003

  5. the ambiguities in his answers

  6. <the ambiguity of the clairvoyant's messages from the deceased allowed the grieving relatives to interpret them however they wished>



Where ambiguity comes from

It might not be immediately clear (unless you are fluent in Latin) how ambiguity ("uncertainty") and ambidextrous ("using both hands with equal ease") are connected, aside from the fact that they both begin with the same four letters. Ambiguity (and ambiguous) comes from the Latin ambiguus, which was formed by combining ambi- (meaning "both") and agere ("to drive"). Ambidextrous combines the same prefix with dexter (meaning "skillful; relating to or situated on the right"). So each of these words carries the meaning of "both" in its history; one with the sense of "both meanings" and the other with that of "both hands." Ambiguity may be used to refer either to something (such as a word) which has multiple meanings, or to a more general state of uncertainty.

Origin and Etymology of ambiguity

(see ambiguous)


First Known Use: 15th century



AMBIGUITY Defined for Kids

ambiguity

play
noun am·bi·gu·i·ty \ˌam-bə-ˈgyü-ə-tē\

Definition of ambiguity for Students

plural

ambiguities

  1. :  something that can be understood in more than one way <The message was filled with confusing ambiguities.>





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