ter·​gi·​ver·​sa·​tion | \ ˌtər-ˌji-vər-ˈsā-shən How to pronounce tergiversation (audio) , -ˌgi-; ˌtər-ji-(ˌ)vər- \

Definition of tergiversation

1 : evasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement : equivocation
2 : desertion of a cause, position, party, or faith

Synonyms for tergiversation


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The roots of tergiversation are about an unwillingness to pick a course and stay on it. The Latin verb tergiversari means "to show reluctance," and it comes from the combining of tergum, meaning "back," and versare, meaning "to turn." (While versare and its related form, vertere, turn up in the etymologies of many English words, including versatile and invert, tergum is at the root of only a few, among them tergal, an obscure synonym of dorsal.) While the "desertion" meaning of tergiversation is both older and a better reflection of the meanings of its etyma, the word is more frequently used as a synonym of equivocation. The related verb tergiversate is a somewhat rare synonym of equivocate.

Examples of tergiversation in a Sentence

like most politicians, he has the gift for tergiversation

First Known Use of tergiversation

1570, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of tergiversation was in 1570

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Cite this Entry

“Tergiversation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tergiversation. Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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