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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Rivera was privately equivocal about the reasons for his departure. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "What Makes the Difference Between Getting Out of Prison and Staying Out?," 9 Nov. 2020 Other vocal supporters from 2016 are more equivocal, or have gone quiet, at least about the election. WSJ, "Supreme Court Declines GOP Challenges on Extended Ballot Deadlines — Election 2020 Live Updates," 29 Oct. 2020 When asked recently by NBC's Savannah Guthrie to state his feelings about a popular conspiracy theory, President Trump gave an equivocal answer. Matthew Walther, TheWeek, "Why QAnon will outlive Trump," 20 Oct. 2020 Conley seemed to give very equivocal answers around that, and what happened. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "Maggie Haberman on the Fallout from Trump’s Hospitalization," 3 Oct. 2020 Throughout his first term, reporters have repeatedly tried to pin Trump down on these questions, and his answers have always been equivocal at best. Gilad Edelman, Wired, "Trump and the Limits of Content Moderation," 30 Sep. 2020 While Biden is equivocal, some Democrats would like to retaliate against conservative confirmation successes with legislating to expand the court, and then packing it with left-wing judges. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, "The Supreme Court fight of our lives," 24 Sep. 2020 Other polls are more equivocal but suggest an unexpected Trump surge among minority voters. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Trump, Race, and Class," 8 Sep. 2020 Faulkner was unusual for a Southern writer of his time in his equivocal attitude toward the antebellum past. Evan Kindley, The New Republic, "William Faulkner’s Southern Guilt," 18 Aug. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about equivocal

Time Traveler for equivocal

Time Traveler

The first known use of equivocal was in 1599

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about equivocal

Statistics for equivocal

Cite this Entry

“Equivocal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equivocal. Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for equivocal


How to pronounce equivocal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of equivocal

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on equivocal

What made you want to look up equivocal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!