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

Definition of prevaricate

intransitive verb

: to deviate from the truth : equivocate

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Other Words from prevaricate

prevarication \ pri-​ˌver-​ə-​ˈkā-​shən How to pronounce prevaricate (audio) , -​ˌva-​rə-​ \ noun
prevaricator \ pri-​ˈver-​ə-​ˌkā-​tər How to pronounce prevaricate (audio) , -​ˈva-​rə-​ \ noun

Synonyms for prevaricate


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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

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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.

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 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, "How the Pandemic Will End," 25 Mar. 2020 Until disclosures are made mandatory, companies are likely to prevaricate. The Economist, "Firms face physical, regulatory and legal risks from climate change," 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, "A British journal has upset a lot of Indians by weighing in on Kashmir," 19 Aug. 2019 Every transfer situation is unique, and, on this particular occasion, why not just pay up instead of needlessly prevaricating?, "Harry Maguire Is a Good Signing for Man Utd But it Should Have Happened a Month Ago," 5 Aug. 2019 Anna hemmed and hawed and dissembled and prevaricated and, as the women got increasingly angry, allowed two fat tears to roll down her cheeks. Jessica Pressler, The Cut, "Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It," 28 May 2018 Meanwhile, Mohamed Nasheed, the former president whose conviction has now been quashed, prevaricated about returning from exile in Sri Lanka. The Economist, "The Maldives’ Supreme Court abruptly orders the release of several opposition politicians," 2 Feb. 2018 But this is the present Congress with the present Republican majorities running things, so Junior walked away to prevaricate another day. Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, "This Erik Prince Transcript Is Unbelievable," 8 Dec. 2017 Saudi Arabia, which accounts for about 20% of BAE’s overall sales, has bought more than 70 Typhoons, but is prevaricating over buying another 40 or so. The Economist, "Throttling backBAE Systems sheds 2,000 jobs in Britain," 12 Oct. 2017

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.

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First Known Use of prevaricate

circa 1625, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for prevaricate

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

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The first known use of prevaricate was circa 1625

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Cite this Entry

“Prevaricate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of prevaricate

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

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