[ am-big-yoo-uhs ]
See synonyms for: ambiguousambiguouslyambiguousness on

  1. open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations; equivocal: an ambiguous answer.

  2. Linguistics. (of an expression) exhibiting constructional homonymity; having two or more structural descriptions, as the sequence Flying planes can be dangerous.

  1. of doubtful or uncertain nature; difficult to comprehend, distinguish, or classify: a rock of ambiguous character.

  2. lacking clearness or definiteness; obscure; indistinct: an ambiguous shape;an ambiguous future.

Origin of ambiguous

First recorded in 1480–1500; from Latin ambiguus, equivalent to ambig(ere) “to dispute, contend; be undecided, doubt” (from ambi- prefix meaning “both, around” + -igere combining form of agere “to drive, lead, act”) +-uus adjective suffix; see origin at ambi-; see -ous

synonym study For ambiguous

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.

Other words for ambiguous

Opposites for ambiguous

Other words from ambiguous

  • am·big·u·ous·ly, adverb
  • am·big·u·ous·ness, noun
  • un·am·big·u·ous, adjective

Words that may be confused with ambiguous Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use ambiguous in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for ambiguous


/ (æmˈbɪɡjʊəs) /

  1. having more than one possible interpretation or meaning

  2. difficult to understand or classify; obscure

Origin of ambiguous

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

Derived forms of ambiguous

  • ambiguously, adverb
  • ambiguousness, noun

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