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

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Equivocal, vague, and ambiguous all mean "not clearly understandable" and are used to describe confusing speech or writing. Equivocal—which can be traced back to the Latin prefix aequi- (equi-) and the Latin word vox ("voice")—applies to language left open to differing interpretations with the intention of deceiving or evading ("moral precepts with equivocal phrasing"). Vague implies a lack of clear formulation due to inadequate conception or consideration ("I had only a vague idea of how to get there"). Ambiguous, like equivocal, applies to language capable of more than one interpretation but usually does not have the negative connotations of deception or evasion ("the poet's wording is intentionally ambiguous").

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The younger, more equivocal Hitchens would not have put it that way. Christian Lorentzen, Harper’s Magazine , 20 July 2022 Instead, the evidence is usually less direct and more equivocal. Tom Spiggle, Forbes, 7 July 2022 Amid the lukewarm notes and contempt of lying for hire, this wryly equivocal review says something genuinely important: Feeling, in a poet, is the source of others’ feeling. Susan J. Wolfson, The Atlantic, 18 June 2022 Lee, 64, has kept his public appearances brief and tightly choreographed, and his statements have been vague and equivocal, said Chan, showing his lack of knowledge in many policy areas. Robert Olsen, Forbes, 6 May 2022 Trump’s appeal to his fans, yet Trump himself seems equivocal about his project. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 5 June 2022 At the end of May, Lam gave an equivocal response when asked whether people who gathered at Victoria Park on June 4 would face legal repercussions. Jessie Yeung, CNN, 3 June 2022 As for other benefits, the literature is somewhat equivocal. Oliver Lee Bateman, Men's Health, 19 May 2022 From his Fifth Symphony onward, Shostakovich practiced an art of equivocal triumph, and the finale of the Tenth might be his deftest feat in this line. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 24 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of equivocal was in 1599

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Cite this Entry

“Equivocal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equivocal. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

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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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