- allowing the possibility of several different meanings, as a word or phrase, especially with intent to deceive or misguide; susceptible of double interpretation; deliberately ambiguous: an equivocal answer.
- of doubtful nature or character; questionable; dubious; suspicious: aliens of equivocal loyalty.
- of uncertain significance; not determined: an equivocal attitude.
Origin of equivocal
However, if you split equivocal in half, as equi- + -vocal, the relation of its spelling to its origin and meanings becomes more clear. Think “equal voices,” two or more voices in conflict over a meaning, attitude, statement, etc., resulting in ambiguity, indecision, or deception. Recombine equi- + -vocal, put the main stress on the second syllable, and you have it: [ih-kwiv-uh-kuh l] /ɪˈkwɪv ə kəl/.
The form with the extra syllable is not found in educated writing, nor are any of its matching derivatives, like equivocably, unequivocable, and unequivocably. These are not considered standard variants and are best avoided in writing and speech.
Related Words for equivocalambiguous, muddled, unclear, puzzling, dubious, evasive, vague, ambivalent, borderline, disreputable, fishy, fuzzy, hazy, indefinite, indeterminate, indistinct, misleading, oblique, obscure, open
Examples from the Web for equivocal
Contemporary Examples of equivocal
The results are almost always negative, and when they are equivocal it rarely is an indication of actual illness.Predator Doctors Take Advantage of Patients With ‘Chronic Lyme’ Scam
September 19, 2014
His answer was equivocal as Paul said his wife didn't want him to run.Rand Paul: My Wife Will Decide If I Run
December 6, 2013
But his wavering and equivocal history on the marriage issue more properly suggests a profile in Jell-O.Obama's Gay-Marriage Switch: Why Now?
May 10, 2012
Historical Examples of equivocal
"This was something of a difficult undertaking, too," said he, with an equivocal smile.The Fortunes Of Glencore
Charles James Lever
There were six or seven of them, all briefly worded, some direct and some equivocal.The Memoires of Casanova, Complete
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Of course I did neither and there fell on us an odd, equivocal silence.The Arrow of Gold
Hobbes' definition, it may be urged, when applied to the case of the Will, is equivocal.Mind and Motion and Monism
George John Romanes
Yet Walpole's place in literature is unmistakable, if of equivocal merit.Hours in a Library, Volume I. (of III.)
- capable of varying interpretations; ambiguous
- deliberately misleading or vague; evasive
- of doubtful character or sincerity; dubious