Word of the Day : October 15, 2018

tergiversation

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noun ter-jiv-er-SAY-shun

Definition

1 : evasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement : equivocation

2 : desertion of a cause, position, party, or faith

Did You Know?

The roots of tergiversation are about an unwillingness to pick a course and stay on it. The Latin verb tergiversari means "to show reluctance," and it comes from the combining of tergum, meaning "back," and versare, meaning "to turn." (While versare and its related form, vertere, turn up in the etymologies of many English words, including versatile and invert, tergum is at the root of only a few, among them tergal, an obscure synonym of dorsal.) While the "desertion" meaning of tergiversation is both older and a better reflection of the meanings of its etyma, the word is more frequently used as a synonym of equivocation. The related verb tergiversate is a somewhat rare synonym of equivocate.


Examples

"Two chapters stand out. One covers the grinding combat in southern Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, where the horrific daily reality for fighting soldiers is nicely juxtaposed with the tergiversations of generals and officials safe in Kabul and Washington." — Jason Burke, The Spectator, 3 Feb. 2018

"The emotional leitmotif of Frankel's book is the Wilde-Douglas love story, one of vacillations and tergiversations, perhaps the most spectacular in the annals of literary history. There were various times when each of the lovers declared he would kill the other, only to rush back into his outstretched arms." — John Simon, The Weekly Standard, 2 Mar. 2018



Word Family Quiz

What does malversation (derived from Latin versare, meaning "to turn") refer to?

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