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[am-biv-uh-luh nt]
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  1. having mixed feelings about someone or something; being unable to choose between two (usually opposing) courses of action: The whole family was ambivalent about the move to the suburbs. She is regarded as a morally ambivalent character in the play.
  2. Psychology. of or relating to 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.
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Origin of ambivalent

back formation from ambivalence
Related formsam·biv·a·lent·ly, adverb
Can be confusedambiguous ambivalent
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for ambivalent

uncertain, equivocal, hesitant, doubtful, contradictory, undecided, mixed, unsure, clashing, debatable, inconclusive, irresolute, opposed, unresolved, vacillating, warring, wavering, fluctuating

Examples from the Web for ambivalent

Contemporary Examples of ambivalent

Historical Examples of ambivalent

  • Let us recall that in our earlier discussion we took note of the ambivalent character of love.

    Herein is Love

    Reuel L. Howe

  • Thus we find again that taboo has grown out of the soil of an ambivalent emotional attitude.

    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

  • Let us suppose the subject has ambivalent feelings toward his father.

Word Origin and History for ambivalent


1916, originally a term in psychology; back-formation from ambivalence. In general use by 1929.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper