equiv·​o·​cal | \ i-ˈkwi-və-kəl How to pronounce equivocal (audio) \

Definition of equivocal

1a : subject to two or more interpretations and usually used to mislead or confuse an equivocal statement
b : uncertain as an indication or sign equivocal evidence
2a : of uncertain nature or classification equivocal shapes
b : of uncertain disposition toward a person or thing : undecided an equivocal attitude
c : of doubtful advantage, genuineness, or moral rectitude equivocal behavior

Other Words from equivocal

equivocality \ i-​ˌkwi-​və-​ˈka-​lə-​tē How to pronounce equivocal (audio) \ noun
equivocally \ i-​ˈkwi-​və-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce equivocal (audio) \ adverb
equivocalness \ i-​ˈkwi-​və-​kəl-​nəs How to pronounce equivocal (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for equivocal

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

Examples of equivocal in a Sentence

When I go to galleries to see new art.  … I don't care about what I see unless it holds my eye, and that is an almost involuntary experience; but once something has that hold on me—even in a tentative, equivocal way—other factors come into play, and I find myself reaching for analogies, ideas, theories. — Jed Perl, New Republic, 20 Mar. 2000 He [Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec] frequented the sleazy underworld of Paris, but moved in top circles too, and by virtue of his equivocal status as a landed gentleman-turned-bohemian artist, was sufficiently an outsider to be a detached observer of the diverse social classes among whom he ranged so freely. — Elizabeth Cowling, Times Literary Supplement, 8 Nov. 1991 … in the past, photographs of real situations in color have invited a sense of ambiguity, an element of distrust on the part of viewers, perhaps because the saturated dyes of color film seem to have an equivocal relationship to the harsher realities of social conditions. — Naomi Rosenblum, A World History of Photography, 1989 He responded to reporters' questions with equivocal answers. The experiment produced equivocal results.
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Recent Examples on the Web In fact, there is only equivocal evidence that college attendance makes people vastly more liberal. New York Times, 8 Sep. 2021 Russia’s position, by contrast, was more equivocal. New York Times, 3 Sep. 2021 The next year, in 2016, after beating Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao offered a rather equivocal statement about his future. Kelefa Sanne, The New Yorker, 20 Aug. 2021 But as the emails threaten to spill over into some weird form of sexting, the guests become more equivocal. Sean Malin, Vulture, 13 Aug. 2021 Every encounter, every conversation, however fleeting, however equivocal, however personal, could now be in the running for public consumption. Victoria Murphy, Town & Country, 20 July 2021 Unlike many of his compatriots, Marco Bolasco, a prominent food journalist in Italy, was more equivocal in his assessment of pizza newcomers. New York Times, 7 June 2021 Even after California adopted a good portion of Charity Dean’s action plan, via an emergency task force appointed by Newsom, with an accelerated testing-and-tracing regime, the results were equivocal over the longer term. Chris Lehmann, The New Republic, 11 May 2021 Her message and manner received equivocal assessments in the West. New York Times, 21 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'equivocal.' 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 equivocal

1599, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for equivocal

Late Latin aequivocus, from aequi- equi- + voc-, vox voice — more at voice

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Time Traveler for equivocal

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The first known use of equivocal was in 1599

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Last Updated

18 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Equivocal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equivocal. Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for equivocal



English Language Learners Definition of equivocal

: having two or more possible meanings : ambiguous
: not easily understood or explained

More from Merriam-Webster on equivocal

Nglish: Translation of equivocal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of equivocal for Arabic Speakers


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