adjective am·big·u·ous \am-ˈbi-gyə-wəs\

: able to be understood in more than one way : having more than one possible meaning

: not expressed or understood clearly

Full Definition of AMBIGUOUS

a :  doubtful or uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness <eyes of an ambiguous color>
b :  inexplicable
:  capable of being understood in two or more possible senses or ways <an ambiguous smile> <an ambiguous term> <a deliberately ambiguous reply>
am·big·u·ous·ly adverb
am·big·u·ous·ness noun

Examples of AMBIGUOUS

  1. We were confused by the ambiguous wording of the message.
  2. He looked at her with an ambiguous smile.
  3. Due to the ambiguous nature of the question, it was difficult to choose the right answer.
  4. the ambiguous position of women in modern society
  5. Greater familiarity with this artist makes one's assessment of him more tentative rather than less. His best pictures exude a hypersensitive, ambiguous aura of grace. —Peter Schjeldahl, New Yorker, 10 Mar. 2003


Latin ambiguus, from ambigere to be undecided, from ambi- + agere to drive — more at agent
First Known Use: 1528

Synonym Discussion of AMBIGUOUS

obscure, dark, vague, enigmatic, cryptic, ambiguous, equivocal mean not clearly understandable. obscure implies a hiding or veiling of meaning through some inadequacy of expression or withholding of full knowledge <obscure poems>. dark implies an imperfect or clouded revelation often with ominous or sinister suggestion <muttered dark hints of revenge>. vague implies a lack of clear formulation due to inadequate conception or consideration <a vague sense of obligation>. enigmatic stresses a puzzling, mystifying quality <enigmatic occult writings>. cryptic implies a purposely concealed meaning <cryptic hints of hidden treasure>. ambiguous applies to language capable of more than one interpretation <an ambiguous directive>. equivocal applies to language left open to differing interpretations with the intention of deceiving or evading <moral precepts with equivocal phrasing>.

Rhymes with AMBIGUOUS

AMBIGUOUSLY Defined for Kids


adjective am·big·u·ous \am-ˈbi-gyə-wəs\

Definition of AMBIGUOUS for Kids

:  able to be understood in more than one way <an ambiguous explanation>
am·big·u·ous·ly adverb <answered ambiguously>


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