dis·​am·​big·​u·​ate ˌdis-am-ˈbi-gyə-ˌwāt How to pronounce disambiguate (audio)
disambiguated; disambiguating; disambiguates

transitive verb

: to clarify (something ambiguous) especially by providing or considering additional information
All health systems possess master patient indexes to disambiguate patient identities …Dwight Raum
"Our eyes encode vast amounts of messy sensory information, and our brain uses clever tricks to disambiguate this information to try and make sense of what it is we are looking at," Dr [Gustav] Kuhn said.Harry Pettit
specifically, linguistics : to establish a single semantic or grammatical interpretation for (a word, phrase, sentence, etc.)
We argued that when a word is ambiguous, placing it within a specific context often disambiguates it. For example, green in the sentence Give me the green has a very different sense if the sentence is uttered by one speaker holding the other at gunpoint than it does when uttered by an artist gesturing to his assistant. Genine Lentine and Roger W. Shuy
disambiguation noun
plural disambiguations
Disambiguation is complex in English since … the same word can be a verb, adjective or noun (as with light) with no change in form to provide clues for the program. Ross Smith

Examples of disambiguate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web To disambiguate the meaning of animal signals, such as a string of dolphin clicks or whalesong, scientists needed some inkling of where meaning-encoding units began and ended, Reiss explained. Sonia Shah, New York Times, 20 Sep. 2023 These are words so often used in computing contexts that not even a regex match pattern written by God could disambiguate all the indexing and search collisions. Stephen Cass, IEEE Spectrum, 5 Sep. 2023 Input from the twitches is used by its software to create different interpretations of what is happening; the software then orders new twitches that might help disambiguate the scenarios. Amanda Gefter, The New Yorker, 31 Aug. 2023 This alternative title succinctly and intuitively confers the role of PAs, disambiguates them from assistant physicians, and is concordant with the AAPA’s professional definition. Peter A. Young, STAT, 2 June 2023 All health systems possess master patient indexes to disambiguate patient identities, but few extend that identity into external digital health tools. Dwight Raum, Forbes, 10 June 2022 Neurons that initiate eye movement also notify visual sensory areas of the cortex about what is happening and disambiguate whether, say, a flower is moving in the wind or being handled by the person observing it. György Buzsáki, Scientific American, 14 May 2022 Being in the eye of the storm, Lee can’t disambiguate its wider effects. The New Yorker, 6 Sep. 2021 Kreis anticipates a Democratic Congress may attempt to disambiguate the law by exempting civil rights law from the religious freedom act. Julie Moreau, NBC News, 23 June 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'disambiguate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1960, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of disambiguate was in 1960

Dictionary Entries Near disambiguate

Cite this Entry

“Disambiguate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disambiguate. Accessed 30 Sep. 2023.

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