verb equiv·o·cate \ i-ˈkwi-və-ˌkāt \

Definition of equivocate

equivocated; equivocating
1 : to use equivocal language especially with intent to deceive
2 : to avoid committing oneself in what one says


play \i-ˌkwi-və-ˈkā-shən\ noun


play \i-ˈkwi-və-ˌkā-tər\ noun

Examples of equivocate in a Sentence

  1. The applicant seemed to be equivocating when we asked him about his last job.

  2. When asked about her tax plan, the candidate didn't equivocate.

Recent Examples of equivocate from the Web

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

When Should You Use equivocate and equivocal?

With its root equi-, meaning "equal", equivocate suggests speaking on both sides of an issue at the same time. An equivocal answer is one that manages not to take a stand; an unequivocal answer, by contrast, is strong and clear. Politicians are famous for equivocating, but equivocation is also typical of used-car salesmen, nervous witnesses in a courtroom, and guys whose girlfriends ask them how committed they are to a relationship.

First Known Use of equivocate


in the meaning defined at sense 1

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equivocate Synonyms


beat around the bush (or about), hem and haw, straddle the fence;

Synonym Discussion of equivocate

lie, prevaricate, equivocate, palter, fib mean to tell an untruth. lie is the blunt term, imputing dishonesty.
    • lied about where he had been
prevaricate softens the bluntness of lie by implying quibbling or confusing the issue.
    • during the hearings the witness did his best to prevaricate
equivocate implies using words having more than one sense so as to seem to say one thing but intend another.
    • equivocated endlessly in an attempt to mislead her inquisitors
palter implies making unreliable statements of fact or intention or insincere promises.
    • a swindler paltering with his investors
fib applies to a telling of a trivial untruth.
    • fibbed about the price of the new suit

EQUIVOCATE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of equivocate for English Language Learners

  • : to use unclear language especially to deceive or mislead someone

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