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equivocal

[ ih-kwiv-uh-kuhl ]
/ ɪˈkwɪv ə kəl /
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See synonyms for: equivocal / equivocacy / equivocality / equivocalness on Thesaurus.com

adjective

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: the equivocal loyalty of many employees during the labor strike.
of uncertain significance; not determined: an equivocal attitude.

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Origin of equivocal

First recorded in 1375–1425; late Middle English equivoc (from Late Latin aequivocus “ambiguous,” equivalent to Latin aequi- “equal” + vōc-, stem of vōx “voice” + -us adjective suffix) + -al1;see origin at equi-, voice
1. See ambiguous.
The four-syllable word equivocal is sometimes said by those not entirely familiar with it as [ih-kwiv-uh-kuh-buhl], /ɪˈkwɪv ə kə bəl/, as if it were a five-syllable word, equivocable. This is probably the result of conflation with the pronunciations heard for many common adjectives that do end with -cable, as applicable, communicable, despicable, and eradicable.
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-kuhl]. /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.
equivalent, equivocal
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

British Dictionary definitions for equivocal

equivocal
/ (ɪˈkwɪvəkəl) /

adjective

capable of varying interpretations; ambiguous
deliberately misleading or vague; evasive
of doubtful character or sincerity; dubious
equivocally, adverbequivocality or equivocalness, noun
C17: from Late Latin aequivocus, from Latin equi- + vōx voice
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
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