ambiguity

noun am·bi·gu·i·ty \ ˌam-bə-ˈgyü-ə-tē \
Updated on: 10 Dec 2017

Definition of ambiguity

plural ambiguities
1 a : the quality or state of being ambiguous especially in meaning
  • The ambiguity of the poem allows several interpretations.
b : a word or expression that can be understood in two or more possible ways : an ambiguous word or expression

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.CosmopolitanJanuary 2008
  2. 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 TallisProspectSeptember 2003
  3. 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. AndersonOn the Verge of War1999
  4. 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 MartinA Governess In the Age of Jane Austen1998
  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

Recent Examples of ambiguity from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ambiguity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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



AMBIGUITY Defined for English Language Learners

ambiguity

noun

Definition of ambiguity for English Language Learners

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


AMBIGUITY Defined for Kids

ambiguity

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

Definition of ambiguity for Students

plural ambiguities
: something that can be understood in more than one way
  • The message was filled with confusing ambiguities.


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