ambiguous


ambiguous
ambivalent, ambiguous
The terms ambivalent and ambivalence are first recorded in about 1916 in the context of psychology, and in particular the Jungian notion of ‘the coexistence in one person of contradictory emotions or attitudes towards a person or thing’ (OED). C. S. Lewis distanced himself somewhat from using ambivalent when he said that ‘Death is…what some modern people would call “ambivalent”. It is Satan's great weapon and God's great weapon’. Ambivalent applies to feelings and attitudes, whereas ambiguous refers to more concrete things such as statements and events and their meanings: (ambivalent)

• This sad state of affairs may be attributed to feckless parents or to a society which projects its standards and values in such an ambivalent way —H. Pluckrose, 1987

• Women can be extremely ambivalent about their own ambition and aggression at work —She, 1989

• Examination of what is entailed and what is expected have produced ambivalent conclusions —State of Prisons, 1991

• (ambiguous) This remark may in isolation be ambiguous —law report, BrE 2003 [OEC]

• Reform is an ambiguous word —Business Week Magazine, 2003.

In the following sentence, ambivalent would be the better choice:

• Booksellers are feeling ambiguous about marking or commemorating the anniversary of the attacks of September 11 —weblog, AmE 2002 [OEC].

Ambivalently is also found, often where ambiguously would be more suitable: e.g.

• The people who inhabit Gormenghast, ambivalently described as ‘figures’ and ‘shapes’, are poised between the two meanings —M. H. Short et al., 1987.


Modern English usage. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ambiguous — I adjective abstruse, ambiguus, ambivalent, confused, difficult to comprehend, doubtful, dubious, equivocal, having a double meaning, indefinite, indistinct, inexact, lacking clearness, not clear, not plain, obscure, open to various… …   Law dictionary

  • Ambiguous — Am*big u*ous, a. [L. ambiguus, fr. ambigere to wander about, waver; amb + agere to drive.] Doubtful or uncertain, particularly in respect to signification; capable of being understood in either of two or more possible senses; equivocal; as, an… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ambiguous — UK US /æmˈbɪgjuəs/ adjective ► having more than one possible meaning, and therefore likely to cause confusion: »Many companies are appealing against the ruling, because the wording is ambiguous …   Financial and business terms

  • ambiguous — (adj.) 1520s, from L. ambiguus having double meaning, shifting, changeable, doubtful, adjective derived from ambigere to dispute about, lit. to wander, from ambi about (see AMBI (Cf. ambi )) + agere drive, lead, act (see ACT (Cf. act)). Sir… …   Etymology dictionary

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

  • ambiguous — [adj] having more than one meaning clear as dishwater*, cryptic, doubtful, dubious, enigmatic, enigmatical, equivocal, inconclusive, indefinite, indeterminate, inexplicit, muddy, obscure, opaque, puzzling, questionable, tenebrous, uncertain,… …   New thesaurus

  • ambiguous — ► ADJECTIVE 1) (of language) having more than one meaning. 2) not clear or decided. DERIVATIVES ambiguously adverb. ORIGIN Latin ambiguus doubtful …   English terms dictionary

  • ambiguous — [am big′yo͞o əs] adj. [L ambiguus < ambigere, to wander < ambi , about, around + agere, to do, ACT1] 1. having two or more possible meanings 2. not clear; indefinite; vague SYN. OBSCURE ambiguously adv. ambiguousness n …   English World dictionary

  • ambiguous — 01. The President was purposefully [ambiguous] in his reply. 02. I feel pretty [ambiguous] about the party. I hope it s a success, but I don t want to go myself. 03. There can be no [ambiguity] over the right of people to say what they believe.… …   Grammatical examples in English

  • ambiguous — ambiguously, adv. ambiguousness, n. /am big yooh euhs/, adj. 1. open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations; equivocal: an ambiguous answer. 2. Ling. (of an expression) exhibiting constructional homonymity; having two or more… …   Universalium

  • ambiguous — am•big•u•ous [[t]æmˈbɪg yu əs[/t]] adj. 1) cv open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations: an ambiguous answer[/ex] 2) difficult to comprehend, distinguish, or classify: a rock of ambiguous character[/ex] 3) lacking clearness… …   From formal English to slang


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