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

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Other Words from vacillate

vacillatingly \ ˈva-​sə-​ˌlā-​tiŋ-​lē How to pronounce vacillatingly (audio) \ adverb
vacillator \ ˈva-​sə-​ˌlā-​tər How to pronounce vacillator (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 The muddled nature of the New Hampshire field could give a boost to whomever emerges victorious in Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses, possibly helping to tip vacillating Granite State voters toward a newly evident front-runner. Victoria Mcgrane,, "Sanders, Biden lead tight pack of front-runners in Suffolk University/Boston Globe N.H. poll," 21 Jan. 2020 Maduro, who has dealt with bouts of serious unrest of his own this year, has vacillated between appearing to claim credit for the multiple uprisings abroad and poking fun at his enemies’ accusations. Washington Post, "Mastermind or scapegoat? Besieged South American leaders blame Venezuela’s Maduro for historic wave of unrest," 31 Oct. 2019 Since Trump was elected in 2016, both Waters and Green have been consistent in categorically denouncing Trump’s loathsome conduct and calling for his removal from office while Democratic Party leaders vacillated on the topic. Lincoln Anthony Blades, Teen Vogue, "Trump Impeachment Inquiry Is Happening Thanks to Lawmakers of Color," 18 Oct. 2019 One senior administration official close to Bolton described him as frustrated with the president’s vacillating positions, his willingness to meet with any world leader without conditions, and dysfunction within the administration., "Trump disparages his ousted national security adviser, saying he made ‘some very big mistakes’ - The Boston Globe," 12 Sep. 2019 Ramey took a more commanding role with Coleman sidelined and steered the offense, vacillating between attacker and setup man. Nick Moyle,, "Will Baker rains 3s on TCU as Texas snaps 4-game losing streak," 19 Feb. 2020 But Macron’s team offered no response, other than continuing to vacillate between stonewalling and vague conciliatory noises. Sylvain Cypel, The New York Review of Books, "Why Macron Refuses to Retire in France’s Pensions Battle," 17 Jan. 2020 Filmmaker Boone has vacillated in interviews over the years about whether or not Demon Bear will actually appear in The New Mutants, but the character is listed among the cast. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Latest trailer for long-delayed The New Mutants ratchets up the horror," 6 Jan. 2020 But the Patriots, whose offense seemed to vacillate between being stuck in neutral and in fifth gear, responded with a punishing drive themselves. Jonas Shaffer,, "In showcase win over Patriots, Lamar Jackson shows why Ravens believe he’s ‘just destined to be great’," 4 Nov. 2019

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.

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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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Time Traveler for vacillate

Time Traveler

The first known use of vacillate was in 1597

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Statistics for vacillate

Last Updated

22 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vacillate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for vacillate


How to pronounce vacillate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of vacillate

formal : to repeatedly change your opinions or desires


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

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