vac·​il·​late | \ ˈva-sə-ˌlāt How to pronounce vacillate (audio) \
vacillated; vacillating

Definition of vacillate

intransitive verb

1 : to waver in mind, will, or feeling : hesitate in choice of opinions or courses
2a : to sway through lack of equilibrium

Other Words from vacillate

vacillatingly \ ˈva-​sə-​ˌlā-​tiŋ-​lē How to pronounce vacillate (audio) \ adverb
vacillator \ ˈva-​sə-​ˌlā-​tər How to pronounce vacillate (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for vacillate

hesitate, waver, vacillate, falter mean to show irresolution or uncertainty. hesitate implies a pause before deciding or acting or choosing. hesitated before answering the question waver implies hesitation after seeming to decide and so connotes weakness or a retreat. wavered in his support of the rebels vacillate implies prolonged hesitation from inability to reach a firm decision. vacillated until events were out of control falter implies a wavering or stumbling and often connotes nervousness, lack of courage, or outright fear. never once faltered during her testimony

Examples of vacillate in a Sentence

She has vacillated on this issue. vacillated for so long that someone else stepped in and made the decision
Recent Examples on the Web That’s the keep-you-guessing appeal of Deep Water, which sees Vic and Melinda’s relationship vacillate between tenderness and simmering rage. David Sims, The Atlantic, 16 Mar. 2022 Lucy’s perceptions of her first husband vacillate in maddeningly recognizable ways. Washington Post, 19 Oct. 2021 Job candidates often feel awkward when talking about their skills and vacillate between being too aggressive or bland when interviewing. Kim Thompson, Chron, 21 Aug. 2021 Then there will be players who vacillate about the vaccine, guys like Tampa Bay’s Leonard Fournette. Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times, 26 July 2021 In pieces like p1eta™️, Chapin tries to reconcile the polarity that women vacillate between — Eve as wicked and full of knowledge, the Virgin Mary as pure and worthy. Brienne Walsh, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2021 Some dedicate half or whole days to each of their primary processes, but the key is to not vacillate back-and-forth between them. Tim Maurer, Forbes, 11 Apr. 2021 Many South Korean voters vacillate between the two major parties and tend to make up their minds just weeks before presidential votes. Andrew Jeong, WSJ, 7 Apr. 2021 But when what seems like her last shot at success slips away, Radha decides to reinvent herself as rapper, proceeding to vacillate between the worlds of hip-hop and theater on a quest to find her true voice. Tyler Aquilina,, 26 Aug. 2020 See More

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

First Known Use of vacillate

1597, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for vacillate

borrowed from Latin vacillātus, past participle of vacillāre "to be unsteady, totter, be weak or inconstant, waver," of uncertain origin

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The first known use of vacillate was in 1597

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Cite this Entry

“Vacillate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for vacillate


vac·​il·​late | \ ˈva-sə-ˌlāt How to pronounce vacillate (audio) \
vacillated; vacillating

Kids Definition of vacillate

: to hesitate between courses or opinions : be unable to choose

More from Merriam-Webster on vacillate

Nglish: Translation of vacillate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vacillate for Arabic Speakers


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