verb pre·var·i·cate \ pri-ˈver-ə-ˌkāt , -ˈva-rə- \

Definition of prevaricate

prevaricated; prevaricating
: to deviate from the truth : equivocate


play \-ˌver-ə-ˈkā-shən, -ˈva-rə-\ noun


play \-ˈver-ə-ˌkā-tər, -ˈva-rə-\ noun

prevaricate was our Word of the Day on 08/28/2015. Hear the podcast!

Examples of prevaricate in a Sentence

  1. Government officials prevaricated about the real costs of the project.

  2. during the hearings the witness was willing to prevaricate in order to protect his friend

Recent Examples of prevaricate from the Web

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

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 he or she 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.

Origin and Etymology of prevaricate

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

PREVARICATE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of prevaricate for English Language Learners

  • : to avoid telling the truth by not directly answering a question

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