ambiguous

[am-big-yoo-uhs]

adjective

open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations; equivocal: an ambiguous answer.
Linguistics. (of an expression) exhibiting constructional homonymity; having two or more structural descriptions, as the sequence Flying planes can be dangerous.
of doubtful or uncertain nature; difficult to comprehend, distinguish, or classify: a rock of ambiguous character.
lacking clearness or definiteness; obscure; indistinct: an ambiguous shape; an ambiguous future.

Nearby words

  1. ambient air standard,
  2. ambient music,
  3. ambient noise,
  4. ambiente,
  5. ambiguity,
  6. ambiguous external genitalia,
  7. ambiguous nucleus,
  8. ambiguously,
  9. ambilateral,
  10. ambilevous

Origin of ambiguous

1520–30; < Latin ambiguus, equivalent to ambig(ere) be uncertain (amb- ambi- + -igere combining form of agere to drive, lead, act) + -uus deverbal adj. suffix; see -ous

Related formsam·big·u·ous·ly, adverbam·big·u·ous·ness, nounun·am·big·u·ous, adjective

Can be confusedambiguous ambivalent

Synonym study

1. ambiguous, equivocal, cryptic, enigmatic describe conditions or statements not clear in meaning. ambiguous can refer to a statement, act, or attitude that is capable of two or more often contradictory interpretations, usually accidentally or unintentionally so: an ambiguous passage in the preamble. equivocal, usually applied to spoken as well as written language, also means susceptible of two or more interpretations, and it usually suggests a deliberate intent to mislead by avoiding clarity: saving face with an equivocal response to an embarrassing question. cryptic usually refers to intentional obscurity, especially in language, and often implies a private or hidden meaning but stresses resultant mystification or puzzlement: a cryptic remark that left us struggling to interpret his intention. enigmatic focuses on perplexity resulting from a mysterious or imponderable event or utterance, often one of great importance or deep significance: prophetic texts so enigmatic that their meaning has been disputed for centuries.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ambiguous


British Dictionary definitions for ambiguous

ambiguous

adjective

having more than one possible interpretation or meaning
difficult to understand or classify; obscure
Derived Formsambiguously, adverbambiguousness, noun

Word Origin for ambiguous

C16: from Latin ambiguus going here and there, uncertain, from ambigere to go around, from ambi- + agere to lead, act

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 ambiguous

ambiguous

adj.

1520s, from Latin ambiguus "having double meaning, shifting, changeable, doubtful," adjective derived from ambigere "to dispute about," literally "to wander," from ambi- "about" (see ambi-) + agere "drive, lead, act" (see act). Sir Thomas More (1528) seems to have first used it in English, but ambiguity dates back to c.1400. Related: Ambiguously; ambiguousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper