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[vas-uh-leyt] /ˈvæs əˌleɪt/
verb (used without object), vacillated, vacillating.
to waver in mind or opinion; be indecisive or irresolute:
His tendency to vacillate makes him a poor leader.
to sway unsteadily; waver; totter; stagger.
to oscillate or fluctuate.
Origin of vacillate
1590-1600; < Latin vacillātus (past participle of vacillāre to sway to and fro); see -ate1
Related forms
vacillator, noun
1. hesitate. See waver1 . 2. reel. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for vacillate
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He may pause, but he must not hesitate,—and tremble, but must not vacillate.

  • Long did he vacillate whether Tom Keane should not be arrested on suspicion.

    Roland Cashel Charles James Lever
  • They vacillate, conforming now to the interest of the wage-workers, now to the interest of the employers.

    Socialism John Spargo
  • Why do you vacillate, and keep us all in the dark as to what you mean?

    Sandra Belloni, Complete George Meredith
  • As if it were possible to wait now, to weigh, vacillate, hesitate!

    The Death of the Gods Dmitri Mrejkowski
  • "He is too independent to vacillate on account of ridicule," said Ida.

    Alone Marion Harland
  • Therefore, we must not temporize nor vacillate in critical moments.

British Dictionary definitions for vacillate


verb (intransitive)
to fluctuate in one's opinions; be indecisive
to sway from side to side physically; totter or waver
Derived Forms
vacillation, noun
vacillator, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin vacillāre to sway, of obscure origin
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
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Word Origin and History for vacillate

1590s, "to sway unsteadily," from Latin vacillatum, from vacillare (see vacillation). Meaning "to waver between two opinions or courses" is recorded from 1620s. Related: Vacillated; vacillates; vacillating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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