equiv·​o·​cate | \i-ˈkwi-və-ˌkāt \
equivocated; equivocating

Definition of equivocate 

intransitive verb

1 : to use equivocal language especially with intent to deceive

2 : to avoid committing oneself in what one says

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Other Words from equivocate

equivocation \i-​ˌkwi-​və-​ˈkā-​shən \ noun
equivocator \i-​ˈkwi-​və-​ˌkā-​tər \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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.

Examples of equivocate in a Sentence

The applicant seemed to be equivocating when we asked him about his last job. When asked about her tax plan, the candidate didn't equivocate.

Recent Examples on the Web

Chinese officials equivocated over the mass detentions before a United Nations panel in August, saying minor criminals in Xinjiang had been sent to vocational schools to learn how to reintegrate into society. Josh Chin, WSJ, "China, Ending Denials, Defends Muslim Detentions as Vital for Stability," 16 Oct. 2018 As multiple tech companies turned their backs on Jones and his hate speech toward immigrants and minorities, Twitter was the main platform left still equivocating. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "Twitter permanently suspends Infowars and Alex Jones," 6 Sep. 2018 No one equivocated or added that the price depended on the country or region or where the wine was made, or the type of grapes, the winemaker or the vintage. Lettie Teague, WSJ, "The Surprising Truth About the Price of Rosé," 24 May 2018 Asked if the building, which has anchored the southeast corner of West Highland Avenue and North 9th Street for more than a century, is a total loss, church and fire officials equivocated Wednesday. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Heating tools on scaffolding may have ignited roof of historic Milwaukee church," 16 May 2018 In reality, African-Americans always vote in line with their interests, and a president who has equivocated on white supremacist violence naturally repels them. The Economist, "Laughing with Diamond and Silk," 10 May 2018 After much complaining, equivocating and dragging of feet, Lot and his family reluctantly left Sodom — which was destroyed at daybreak by fire and brimstone raining from heaven. Glenna Christensen, idahostatesman, "Learn from the past, but don't live in it, for faith is about the future | Idaho Statesman," 26 Apr. 2018 And the circumstances of Bannon’s exit — amid the firestorm after Trump equivocated on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville — helped stiffen Democratic resolve against working with his administration. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: Trump versus Bannon threatens populist economic agenda," 4 Jan. 2018 What would be the experience be for a person of color to work for a man who advocated for the death penalty of five innocent black boys but equivocates the morality of white supremacists? Taylor Crumpton, Teen Vogue, "I Already Knew What the White House Intern Photo Showed Me," 6 Apr. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of equivocate

1590, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

20 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for equivocate

The first known use of equivocate was in 1590

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English Language Learners Definition of equivocate

: to use unclear language especially to deceive or mislead someone

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