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ambiguous

[am-big-yoo-uh s]
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adjective
  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.
  3. of doubtful or uncertain nature; difficult to comprehend, distinguish, or classify: a rock of ambiguous character.
  4. lacking clearness or definiteness; obscure; indistinct: an ambiguous shape; an ambiguous future.
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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

Synonyms

See more synonyms for ambiguous on Thesaurus.com
3. dubious, vague, indeterminate, unclassifiable, anomalous. 4. puzzling, enigmatic, problematic.

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.

Antonyms

1. explicit. 3. certain. 4. clear, precise, unambiguous.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for ambiguousness

Historical Examples

  • I have tried to render approximately the ambiguousness of the original.

    The Gtakaml

    rya Sra

  • Let the ambiguous procession of events reveal their own ambiguousness.

  • A nameless ecstacy thrilled through my frame when any new proof occurred that the ambiguousness of my behaviour was the cause.

    Wieland; or The Transformation

    Charles Brockden Brown

  • Of course he would see to it that not a shadow of ambiguousness was allowed to rest on such a name.

    Christopher and Columbus

    Countess Elizabeth Von Arnim


British Dictionary definitions for ambiguousness

ambiguous

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

Word Origin

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 ambiguousness

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper