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ambiguous

[am-big-yoo-uh s] /æmˈbɪg yu əs/
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.
Origin
1520-1530
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 forms
ambiguously, adverb
ambiguousness, noun
unambiguous, adjective
Can be confused
ambiguous, ambivalent.
Synonyms
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. 3. dubious, vague, indeterminate, unclassifiable, anomalous. 4. puzzling, enigmatic, problematic.
Antonyms
1. explicit. 3. certain. 4. clear, precise, unambiguous.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for ambiguously
  • It has some traits of fish, some traits of amphibians, and some traits that are ambiguously between the two.
  • The film ends ambiguously, with viewers allowed to decide for themselves whether or not the world has been saved.
  • Read these funny headlines and see why it is important to not write ambiguously.
  • These terms are often used ambiguously, so one has to be careful.
  • The standard travel cost model has treated on-site time ambiguously over the years.
  • Disagreement, if expressed, is expressed ambiguously.
British Dictionary definitions for ambiguously

ambiguous

/æmˈbɪɡjʊəs/
adjective
1.
having more than one possible interpretation or meaning
2.
difficult to understand or classify; obscure
Derived Forms
ambiguously, adverb
ambiguousness, 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
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Word Origin and History for ambiguously
ambiguous
1520s, from L. ambiguus "having double meaning, shifting, changeable, doubtful," adj. derived from ambigere "to dispute about," lit. "to wander," from ambi- "about" + 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.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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