1. Open to more than one interpretation: an ambiguous reply.
2. Doubtful or uncertain: "The theatrical status of her frequently derided but constantly revived plays remained ambiguous" (Frank Rich).
[From Latin ambiguus, uncertain, from ambigere, to go about : amb-, ambi-, around; see AMBI- + agere, to drive; see ag- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: ambiguous, equivocal, vague
These adjectives mean lacking clarity, especially by being open to a variety of interpretations. Ambiguous indicates the presence of two or more possible meanings: "It was impossible to tell from his ambiguous expression whether he knew what was happening" (Paul Theroux).
Something equivocal is unclear or misleading: "The polling had a complex and equivocal message for potential female candidates" (David S. Broder).
What is vague is expressed in indefinite form or reflects imprecision of thought: "Vague ... forms of speech ... have so long passed for mysteries of science" (John Locke).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.