Equivocal
Equivocal E*quiv"o*cal, a. [L. aequivocus: aequus equal + vox, vocis, word. See {Equal}, and {Voice}, and cf. {Equivoque}.] 1. (Literally, called equally one thing or the other; hence:) Having two significations equally applicable; capable of double interpretation; of doubtful meaning; ambiguous; uncertain; as, equivocal words; an equivocal sentence. [1913 Webster]

For the beauties of Shakespeare are not of so dim or equivocal a nature as to be visible only to learned eyes. --Jeffrey. [1913 Webster]

2. Capable of being ascribed to different motives, or of signifying opposite feelings, purposes, or characters; deserving to be suspected; as, his actions are equivocal. ``Equivocal repentances.'' --Milton. [1913 Webster]

3. Uncertain, as an indication or sign; doubtful. ``How equivocal a test.'' --Burke. [1913 Webster]

{Equivocal chord} (Mus.), a chord which can be resolved into several distinct keys; one whose intervals, being all minor thirds, do not clearly indicate its fundamental tone or root; the chord of the diminished triad, and the diminished seventh.

Syn: Ambiguous; doubtful; uncertain; indeterminate.

Usage: {Equivocal}, {Ambiguous}. We call an expression ambiguous when it has one general meaning, and yet contains certain words which may be taken in two different senses; or certain clauses which can be so connected with other clauses as to divide the mind between different views of part of the meaning intended. We call an expression equivocal when, taken as a whole, it conveys a given thought with perfect clearness and propriety, and also another thought with equal propriety and clearness. Such were the responses often given by the Delphic oracle; as that to Cr[oe]sus when consulting about a war with Persia: ``If you cross the Halys, you will destroy a great empire.'' This he applied to the Persian empire, which lay beyond that river, and, having crossed, destroyed his own empire in the conflict. What is ambiguous is a mere blunder of language; what is equivocal is usually intended to deceive, though it may occur at times from mere inadvertence. Equivocation is applied only to cases where there is a design to deceive. [1913 Webster]


The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

Synonyms:

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  • equivocal — [ē kwiv′ə kəl, ikwiv′ə kəl] adj. [< LL aequivocus (see EQUIVOCATE) & AL] 1. that can have more than one interpretation; having two or more meanings; purposely vague, misleading, or ambiguous [an equivocal reply] 2. uncertain; undecided;… …   English World dictionary

  • equivocal — I adjective ambiguous, ambiguus, ambivalent, amphibological, amphibolous, anceps, bewildering, cloudy, confusing, controversial, debatable, deceptive, dim, disputable, doubtful, dubious, dubius, enigmatic, enigmatical, equivocating, equivocatory …   Law dictionary

  • Equivocal — E*quiv o*cal, n. A word or expression capable of different meanings; an ambiguous term; an equivoque. [1913 Webster] In languages of great ductility, equivocals like that just referred to are rarely found. Fitzed. Hall. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • equivocal — c.1600, from L.L. aequivocus of equal voice, of equal significance, ambiguous (see EQUIVOCATION (Cf. equivocation)) + AL (Cf. al) (1). Earlier in same sense was equivoque (late 14c.). Related: Equivocally (1570s) …   Etymology dictionary

  • equivocal — ambiguous, *obscure, dark, vague, enigmatic, cryptic Analogous words: dubious, questionable, *doubtful Antonyms: unequivocal Contrasted words: *explicit, express, definite, specific, categorical: perspicuous, lucid, *clear …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • equivocal — [adj] doubtful, uncertain ambiguous, ambivalent, amphibological, borderline, clear as mud*, clouded*, disreputable, dubious, evasive, fishy*, fuzzy*, hazy*, indefinite, indeterminate, indistinct, misleading, muddled, muzzy*, oblique, obscure,… …   New thesaurus

  • equivocal — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ unclear in meaning or intention; ambiguous. DERIVATIVES equivocally adverb. ORIGIN from Latin aequus equal + vocare to call …   English terms dictionary

  • equivocal — [[t]ɪkwɪ̱vək(ə)l[/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED If you are equivocal, you are deliberately vague in what you say, because you want to avoid speaking the truth or making a decision. [FORMAL] Many were equivocal about the idea... His equivocal response has… …   English dictionary

  • equivocal — adjective Etymology: Late Latin aequivocus, from aequi equi + voc , vox voice more at voice Date: 1599 1. a. subject to two or more interpretations and usually used to mislead or confuse < an equivocal statement > b. uncertain as an indication or …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • equivocal — e|quiv|o|cal [ıˈkwıvəkəl] adj [Date: 1500 1600; : Late Latin; Origin: aequivocus, from Latin aequi ( EQUI ) + vox voice ] 1.) if you are equivocal, you are deliberately unclear in the way that you give information or your opinion = ↑ambiguous ▪… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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