vac·​il·​la·​tion | \ ˌva-sə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce vacillation (audio) \

Definition of vacillation

1 : an act or instance of vacillating
2 : inability to take a stand : irresolution, indecision

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Examples of vacillation in a Sentence

the president was soundly criticized for his vacillation before responding to the crisis
Recent Examples on the Web The language of vacillation, which dominates the sequence, continually reconstitutes itself from joy to self-reproach, from choice to indecision. Helen Vendler, Harper's magazine, "Dearest Lizzie," 20 Jan. 2020 Still others have contemplated bids before deciding against it: Mario M. Cuomo’s vacillations were so well known that people called him Hamlet on the Hudson. Jesse Mckinley, New York Times, "Why N.Y.C. Mayors Have White House Dreams (and Voters Dash Them)," 11 Nov. 2019 Obama’s vacillation was blamed for Assad’s subsequent use of chemical weapons. David Banks, The Conversation, "Syria military presence risks US credibility with world community," 26 Nov. 2019 Indeed, the vacillation and unpredictability of Trump’s trade policy have raised economic uncertainty to its highest levels since the 2008 recession, which in turn has weakened investment, employment gains, and market confidence. Thomas J. Duesterberg, National Review, "Trump’s Trade Policy at a Crossroads," 17 Sep. 2019 That has led to some policy vacillations, most damagingly over health care. The Economist, "Can Kamala Harris recover from her slump?," 12 Sep. 2019 Harris’s vacillations seem indicative of the risks for candidates who are looking to match Sanders’s clarity of rhetoric, without a full commitment to substance. Osita Nwanevu, The New Yorker, "The Democratic Divide on the Future of Health Care," 28 June 2019 That offer, made at a White House news conference, evoked a vacillation between threats and diplomacy that characterized the U.S. administration’s recent engagement with North Korea. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "Iran’s Supreme Leader Rules Out U.S. Talks in Trump-esque Style," 13 Aug. 2018 Others think that such vacillations might encode and transmit information. Quanta Magazine, "The Beasts That Keep the Beat," 22 Mar. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vacillation.' 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 vacillation

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vacillation

Middle English vacillacion, borrowed from Latin vacillātiōn-, vacillātiō, from vacillāre "to be unsteady, vacillate" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of action nouns

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Time Traveler for vacillation

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The first known use of vacillation was in the 15th century

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Statistics for vacillation

Last Updated

27 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vacillation.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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Comments on vacillation

What made you want to look up vacillation? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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