1 a : doubtful or uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness
b : incapable of being explained, interpreted, or accounted for : inexplicable
2 : capable of being understood in two or more possible senses or ways
"In the app, numbers and symbols are included by default, and ambiguous characters like the digit 0 and capital O are suppressed." — Neil J. Rubenking, PCMag.com, 24 Feb. 2017
"The setting for this story is ambiguous—a girl and her mother leave one country for another to escape an unspecified conflict. The only clue given to the location is the vast ocean separating the two countries, which the refugees must travel by boat." — Anna Fitzpatrick, The Globe and Mail (Canada), 4 Mar. 2017
Did You Know?
Ambiguous, obscure, vague, equivocal, and cryptic are used to describe writing or speech that is not clearly understandable. Ambiguous applies to language capable of more than one interpretation ("an ambiguous suggestion") and derives from the Latin verb ambigere, meaning "to be undecided." Obscure suggests a hiding or veiling of meaning through some inadequacy of expression or withholding of full knowledge ("obscure poems"). Vague, on the other hand, describes a lack of clear formulation due to inadequate conception or consideration ("a vague sense of obligation"). Equivocal is the best choice for language that creates a wrong or false impression, allowing for uncertainty or promoting mistaken interpretations ("the politician gave an equivocal answer"), and when there is a deliberate attempt to confuse, cryptic can be used ("cryptic clues about the location of the buried treasure").
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to complete a synonym of ambiguous: h _ _on _ mo _ _.VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP