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[vas-uh-leyt] /ˈvæs əˌleɪt/
verb (used without object), vacillated, vacillating.
to waver in mind or opinion; be indecisive or irresolute:
His tendency to vacillate makes him a poor leader.
to sway unsteadily; waver; totter; stagger.
to oscillate or fluctuate.
Origin of vacillate
1590-1600; < Latin vacillātus (past participle of vacillāre to sway to and fro); see -ate1
Related forms
vacillator, noun
1. hesitate. See waver1 . 2. reel. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for vacillate
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The compass began to vacillate, and no longer pointed toward the north; this confused both Columbus and his pilots.

    Good Stories For Great Holidays Frances Jenkins Olcott
  • Long did he vacillate whether Tom Keane should not be arrested on suspicion.

    Roland Cashel Charles James Lever
  • The Lamas are trained to wrangle and dispute and defer and vacillate.

    The Unveiling of Lhasa Edmund Candler
  • They vacillate, conforming now to the interest of the wage-workers, now to the interest of the employers.

    Socialism John Spargo
  • The reasoning power becomes weakened and the steadiest mind commences to vacillate.

    Mind and Body William Walker Atkinson
  • As if it were possible to wait now, to weigh, vacillate, hesitate!

    The Death of the Gods Dmitri Mrejkowski
  • Why do you vacillate, and keep us all in the dark as to what you mean?

    Sandra Belloni, Complete George Meredith
British Dictionary definitions for vacillate


verb (intransitive)
to fluctuate in one's opinions; be indecisive
to sway from side to side physically; totter or waver
Derived Forms
vacillation, noun
vacillator, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin vacillāre to sway, of obscure origin
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 vacillate

1590s, "to sway unsteadily," from Latin vacillatum, from vacillare (see vacillation). Meaning "to waver between two opinions or courses" is recorded from 1620s. Related: Vacillated; vacillates; vacillating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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