1 a : subject to two or more interpretations and usually used to mislead or confuse
b : uncertain as an indication or sign
2 a : of uncertain nature or classification
b : of uncertain disposition toward a person or thing : undecided
c : of doubtful advantage, genuineness, or moral rectitude
Did You Know?
Equivocal, vague, and ambiguous all mean "not clearly understandable" and are used to describe confusing speech or writing. Equivocal—which can be traced back to the Latin prefix aequi- (equi-) and the Latin word vox ("voice")—applies to language left open to differing interpretations with the intention of deceiving or evading ("moral precepts with equivocal phrasing"). Vague implies a lack of clear formulation due to inadequate conception or consideration ("I had only a vague idea of how to get there"). Ambiguous, like equivocal, applies to language capable of more than one interpretation but usually does not have the negative connotations of deception or evasion ("the poet's wording is intentionally ambiguous").
When I asked Frances how her job was going, she gave me an equivocal response: "Let's just say I won't be a sous-chef for much longer."
"'I don't know if this is gonna be terrible or brilliant,' says one of the brothers. Had he realised that he'd be the subject of a feature documentary, he might have been less equivocal." — Ryan Gilbey, The New Statesman, 21 Nov. 2018
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
What member of the vox family begins with "c" and means "to call together to a meeting"?VIEW THE ANSWER
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