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 Last year he was criticized across the Anglo and German press for prevaricating about the Ukraine war in its early months. Thomas Meaney, Harper's Magazine, 26 Apr. 2024 Related Articles Letters: 2nd Amendment | Causes of homelessness | Sacrificing schools | Presidential immunity | Trump justices | Child care costs These justices prevaricate pride about constitutional textualism and the context of history. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, 3 May 2024 Erdogan, expected to reciprocate for the PKK’s withdrawal by offering the Kurds additional rights and some measure of local rule, prevaricated for months, instead attending to the anti-government protests that swept through Turkey during the summer. Piotr Zalewski, Foreign Affairs, 20 Oct. 2013 Cooper’s script, co-written with Josh Singer (Spotlight, The Post, First Man, all wretched), prevaricates shamelessly through quasi–Harold Pinter style in which Bernstein and associates avoid directly addressing anything. Armond White, National Review, 22 Dec. 2023 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

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 23 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


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

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