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[am-biv-uh-luh ns]
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  1. uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
  2. Psychology. the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.
Also am·biv·a·len·cy.

Origin of ambivalence

First recorded in 1910–15; ambi- + valence
Related formsam·biv·a·lent, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for ambivalence

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • But now also the psychological fatality of ambivalence demands its rights.

    Totem and Taboo

    Sigmund Freud

  • With the decline of this ambivalence the taboo, as the compromise symptom of the ambivalent conflict, also slowly disappeared.

    Totem and Taboo

    Sigmund Freud

British Dictionary definitions for ambivalence



  1. the simultaneous existence of two opposed and conflicting attitudes, emotions, etc
Derived Formsambivalent, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for ambivalence


"simultaneous conflicting feelings," 1924 (1912 as ambivalency), from German Ambivalenz, coined 1910 by Swiss psychologist Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939) on model of German Equivalenz "equivalence," etc., from Latin ambi- "both" (see ambi-) + valentia "strength," from present participle of valere "be strong" (see valiant). A psychological term that by 1929 had taken on a broader literary and general sense.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

ambivalence in Medicine


  1. The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea.
Related formsam•biva•lent adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.