pre·​var·​i·​cate pri-ˈver-ə-ˌkāt How to pronounce prevaricate (audio)
prevaricated; prevaricating

intransitive verb

: to deviate from the truth : equivocate
prevarication noun
prevaricator noun

Did you know?

Prevaricate and its synonyms lie and equivocate all refer to playing fast and loose with the truth. Lie is the bluntest of the three. When you accuse someone of lying, you are saying that person was intentionally dishonest, no bones about it. Prevaricate is less accusatory and softens the bluntness of lie, usually implying that someone is evading the truth rather than purposely making false statements. Equivocate is similar to prevaricate, but it generally implies that someone is deliberately using words that have more than one meaning as a way to conceal the truth.

Choose the Right Synonym for prevaricate

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

Examples of prevaricate in a Sentence

Government officials prevaricated about the real costs of the project. during the hearings the witness was willing to prevaricate in order to protect his friend
Recent Examples on the Web These subpoenas and interview requests are yet further proof that this sham impeachment inquiry is driven only by the demands of the vengeful and prevaricating Donald Trump. Will Steakin, ABC News, 8 Nov. 2023 British politicians can say all sorts of rubbish to the BBC that wouldn’t count as a crime, but government ministers are not supposed to knowingly mislead — artfully prevaricate? Karla Adam, Washington Post, 21 Mar. 2023 Various underlings and bureaucrats would appear on television to prevaricate or lie about what was actually happening, only to get undercut (or fired) by the big boss in a late-night tweet. Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times, 28 Oct. 2022 When history’s vicious victors prevaricate about how the West was lost, maybe movies such as Cry Macho, Richard Jewell, The Mule, and The 15:17 to Paris will survive to tell a different, more complicated and compassionate story. Armond White, National Review, 17 Sep. 2021 An enemy would simply prevaricate and bide their time, knowing that the other side can pull back from the brink before it’s too late. Andy Meek, BGR, 3 Aug. 2021 When an administration prevaricates on climate change, the effects won’t be felt for years, and even then will be hard to parse. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 25 Mar. 2020 Until disclosures are made mandatory, companies are likely to prevaricate. The Economist, 21 Sep. 2019 Until the American public, whom doctors are well placed to inform, steps into this debate to demand action, Congress will continue to prevaricate. Annabelle Timsit, Quartz India, 19 Aug. 2019 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'prevaricate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin praevaricatus, past participle of praevaricari to act in collusion, literally, to straddle, from prae- + varicare to straddle, from varus bowlegged

First Known Use

circa 1625, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of prevaricate was circa 1625


Dictionary Entries Near prevaricate

Cite this Entry

“Prevaricate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pre·​var·​i·​cate pri-ˈvar-ə-ˌkāt How to pronounce prevaricate (audio)
prevaricated; prevaricating
prevarication noun
prevaricator noun

More from Merriam-Webster on prevaricate

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