vague

adjective \ ˈvāg \
Updated on: 8 Dec 2017

Definition of vague

vaguer; vaguest
1 a : not clearly expressed : stated in indefinite terms
  • vague accusations
b : not having a precise meaning
  • a vague term of abuse
2 a : not clearly defined, grasped, or understood : indistinct
  • only a vague notion of what's needed
; also : slight
  • a vague hint of a thickening waistline
  • hasn't the vaguest idea
b : not clearly felt or sensed : somewhat subconscious
  • a vague longing
3 : not thinking or expressing one's thoughts clearly or precisely
  • vague about dates and places
4 : lacking expression : vacant
  • vague eyes
  • a vague stare
5 : not sharply outlined : hazy
  • met by vague figures with shaded torchlights
  • —Earle Birney

vaguely

adverb

vagueness

noun

Examples of vague in a Sentence

  1. When my three years of military service ended, I looked around for some way to get to spend time in rural Vietnam as a civilian. The driving force was still primarily intellectual curiosity, along with a desire to improve my language ability in a non-Western language and some vague idea of doing folkloristic or literary studies in the future. —Neil L. JamiesonUnderstanding Vietnam(1993) 1995
  2. There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world was in its childhood. —Arthur Conan DoyleA Study in Scarlet1887
  3. At the end of half an hour Tom had a vague general idea of his lesson, but no more, for his mind was traversing the whole field of human thought, and his hands were busy with distracting recreations. —Mark TwainTom Sawyer1876
  4. It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black. —Charles DickensA Christmas Carol1843
  5. The instructions she left were vague and difficult to follow.

  6. He gave only a vague answer.

  7. The judges determined that the law was too vague to be fairly enforced.

  8. She has been vague about her plans for college.

  9. We had only a vague idea of where we were.

  10. I think I have a vague understanding of how it works.

  11. He longed in some vague way for something different.

  12. She felt a vague sense of uneasiness when she was around him.

  13. I had the vague impression that they were withholding information.

  14. We could just barely make out the vague outline of a plane in the sky.

Recent Examples of vague from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of vague

borrowed from French, going back to Middle French, going back to Old French, "wandering, vagabond," borrowed from Latin vagus "moving freely, wandering," perhaps akin to Old High German wankōn "to totter, stagger," winkan "to waver, stagger, wink," Old English wincian "to close the eyes" — more at 1wink

Synonym Discussion of vague

obscure, dark, vague, enigmatic, cryptic, ambiguous, equivocal mean not clearly understandable. obscure implies a hiding or veiling of meaning through some inadequacy of expression or withholding of full knowledge.
    • obscure poems
dark implies an imperfect or clouded revelation often with ominous or sinister suggestion.
    • muttered dark hints of revenge
vague implies a lack of clear formulation due to inadequate conception or consideration.
    • a vague sense of obligation
enigmatic stresses a puzzling, mystifying quality.
    • enigmatic occult writings
cryptic implies a purposely concealed meaning.
    • cryptic hints of hidden treasure
ambiguous applies to language capable of more than one interpretation.
    • an ambiguous directive
equivocal applies to language left open to differing interpretations with the intention of deceiving or evading.
    • moral precepts with equivocal phrasing

VAGUE Defined for English Language Learners

vague

adjective

Definition of vague for English Language Learners

  • : not clear in meaning : stated in a way that is general and not specific

  • : not thinking or expressing your thoughts clearly or precisely

  • : not completely formed or developed


VAGUE Defined for Kids

vague

adjective \ ˈvāg \

Definition of vague for Students

vaguer; vaguest
1 : not clearly expressed
  • a vague answer
2 : not clearly understood or sensed
  • They knew in a vague way what they wanted.
3 : not clearly outlined
  • At first Rosalind could see only vague shapes …
  • —Jeanne Birdsall, The Penderwicks

vaguely

adverb

vagueness

noun

Law Dictionary

vague

adjective \ ˈvāg \

legal Definition of vague

: characterized by such a lack of precision that a person of ordinary intelligence would have to guess if particular conduct is being proscribed : characterized by a failure to describe forbidden conduct in terms sufficient to provide fair warning
  • an unconstitutionally vague law
— see also void-for-vagueness doctrine — compare overbroad

vaguely

adverb

vagueness

noun


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