ambiguous

adjective
am·​big·​u·​ous | \ am-ˈbi-gyə-wəs How to pronounce ambiguous (audio) \

Definition of ambiguous

1a : doubtful or uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness eyes of an ambiguous color
2 : capable of being understood in two or more possible senses or ways an ambiguous smile an ambiguous term a deliberately ambiguous reply

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Other Words from ambiguous

ambiguously adverb
ambiguousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Frequently Asked Questions About ambiguous

Does ambiguous have the same meaning as unclear?

Ambiguous has, like many words in English, more than one possible meaning; a quality some might refer to as ambiguous itself. This word may mean "doubtful or uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness," "capable of being understood in two or more possible senses or ways," and "inexplicable."

What is the difference between ambiguous and ambivalent?

The Latin prefix ambi- means "both," and has led to many people confusing ambiguous and ambivalent. Ambivalent refers to having mixed, contradictory, or more than one feeling about something (the second portion of this word comes from the Latin valere, "to be strong, be worth"). Ambiguous, on the other hand, means unclear or able to be understood in multiple ways (it comes in part from the Latin agere, meaning to drive").

What is the noun form of ambiguous?

Ambiguous_ is an adjective. The noun form related to this word may be either ambiguity or ambiguousness. The adverb is ambiguously.

Examples of ambiguous in a Sentence

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 He seeks sources for the speech's ideas in Lincoln's ambiguous stance toward organized religion, in the sermons of preachers he listened to, and in his Bible-reading habit. — Gilbert Taylor, Booklist, 15 Dec. 2001 In Mexico we follow the fraught, ambiguous journey of a Tijuana cop … caught between the ruthless, corrupt general … he works for and the DEA, which wants him to inform on his countrymen. — David Ansen, Newsweek, 8 Jan. 2001 Physicians could manipulate reimbursement rules to help their patients obtain coverage for care that the physicians perceive to be necessary, for example, through ambiguous documentation or by exaggerating the severity of patients' conditions. — Michael K. Wynia et al., Journal of the American Medical Association, 12 Apr. 2000 We were confused by the ambiguous wording of the message. He looked at her with an ambiguous smile. Due to the ambiguous nature of the question, it was difficult to choose the right answer. the ambiguous position of women in modern society
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Recent Examples on the Web But the health requirements laid out within it, such as social distancing, are not ambiguous and must be followed at the risk of a second-degree misdemeanor, Gov. Mike DeWine said. cleveland, "Workers in Northeast Ohio say a number of businesses are violating Gov. Mike DeWine’s coronavirus orders," 25 Mar. 2020 His line in the commercial was intentionally ambiguous and created specifically to help Hulu generate buzz, said Ryan Crosby, Hulu’s vice president of brand marketing. Suzanne Vranica, WSJ, "Tom Brady in Super Bowl 2020 Ad for Hulu: ‘I Am Not Going Anywhere’," 2 Feb. 2020 This point — that the problem is ambiguous and both sides are correct — has been made by several people, including our own prizewinning reader Josh, who cited a paper by Berry Groisman. Quanta Magazine, "Why Sleeping Beauty Is Lost in Time," 31 Mar. 2016 Attention turned to the library budget, which appeared to be a little ambiguous — an accounting issue. Sarah Lyall, New York Times, "In Bernie Sanders Country, It’s Super Tuesday. It’s Also ‘Town Meeting Day.’," 3 Mar. 2020 The deal excluded the Afghan government and left many critical points ambiguous — including the fate of prisoners. Fatima Faizi, BostonGlobe.com, "Afghan peace plan faces its first roadblock: releasing Taliban prisoners," 1 Mar. 2020 Rules and regulations often are ambiguous by design because societies want flexibility in implementing them. Karuna Pande Joshi, The Conversation, "AI could constantly scan the internet for data privacy violations, a quicker, easier way to enforce compliance," 7 Feb. 2020 Antonio’s charismatic, non-stop banter is highly ambiguous. Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Mayor of Rione Sanita' ('Il sindaco di Rione Sanita'): Film Review | Venice 2019," 30 Aug. 2019 Something that was so ambiguous then is very clear now. Julie Mazziotta, PEOPLE.com, "Olympian Ashley Wagner Says She Was Sexually Assaulted at 17 by Fellow Skater John Coughlin," 1 Aug. 2019

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

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First Known Use of ambiguous

1528, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for ambiguous

Latin ambiguus, from ambigere to be undecided, from ambi- + agere to drive — more at agent

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Time Traveler for ambiguous

Time Traveler

The first known use of ambiguous was in 1528

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Last Updated

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ambiguous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ambiguous. Accessed 28 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for ambiguous

ambiguous

adjective
How to pronounce ambiguous (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ambiguous

: able to be understood in more than one way : having more than one possible meaning
: not expressed or understood clearly

ambiguous

adjective
am·​big·​u·​ous | \ am-ˈbi-gyə-wəs How to pronounce ambiguous (audio) \

Kids Definition of ambiguous

: able to be understood in more than one way an ambiguous explanation

Other Words from ambiguous

ambiguously adverb answered ambiguously

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Comments on ambiguous

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