• tergiversation
  • audio pronunciation
  • \ter-jiv-er-SAY-shun\
  • DEFINITION

noun

1
: evasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement : equivocation
2
: desertion of a cause, position, party, or faith
  • EXAMPLES

Ken's speech was marked by tergiversation and gave few indications of where he really stood on the issue.

"A man is allowed to change his mind—even in the world of politics…. All we can reasonably demand of those engaging in such tergiversations is that they have pondered deeply and, perhaps, even in a principled way about their change of position." — From an article by Dominic Lawson in The Independent (United Kingdom), August 12, 2013

  • DID YOU KNOW?

The Latin verb "tergiversari" means "to show reluctance," and it comes from the combination of "tergum," meaning "back," and "versare," meaning "to turn." "Tergiversari" gave English the noun "tergiversation" and the verb "tergiversate" ("to engage in tergiversation"). "Tergiversation" is the slightly older term, having been around since at least 1570; the first known use of "tergiversate" dates from 1590. There's also the much rarer adjective "tergiversant" ("tending to evade"), as well as the noun "tergiversator" ("one that tergiversates").

Word Family Quiz: What descendant of "versare" can mean "having many uses or applications"? The answer is …

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