Definition of ambiguous in English:



  • 1Open to more than one interpretation; not having one obvious meaning.

    ‘ambiguous phrases’
    • ‘Others are more enigmatic and ambiguous in both their origins and meanings.’
    • ‘Once more, the evidence is ambiguous and interpretations have become polarized.’
    • ‘However, do not be fooled by this statement; it is ambiguous and misleading.’
    • ‘But even this latter assertion is somewhat uncertain and ambiguous for several reasons.’
    • ‘The motivating fictional element is a subversive or ambiguous move.’
    • ‘I seem to remember the novel being a bit more ambiguous than that.’
    • ‘Mr Sumption says, if necessary, that in the present case the phraseology is both obscure and ambiguous.’
    • ‘It is inherent in their task which involves applying rules stated in words that are often ambiguous.’
    • ‘The very nature of his removal remains for the moment ambiguous.’
    • ‘They considered the Act to be ambiguous and open to interpretation on this point.’
    • ‘His remarks were ambiguous, and it will be the tone that matters.’
    • ‘Much of the report is hard to read and contains many ambiguous or misleading statements.’
    • ‘Agreeing with a set of vague and ambiguous statements makes you dogmatic?’
    • ‘He gives an ambiguous answer to his initial question.’
    • ‘The Constitution is an ambiguous document open to interpretation by all.’
    • ‘Either way, you just can't be quoted saying such amazingly ambiguous statements.’
    • ‘But what elevates the novel beyond the genre is the ambiguous, enigmatic voice of Mary herself.’
    • ‘This can result in obscurity or in a ruling which is ambiguous on matters of importance.’
    • ‘For the record, I say to the House this law is ambiguous in terms of its interpretation.’
    • ‘Had it been seen abstracted from that context by the US public, there would have been a more ambiguous reaction.’
    equivocal, ambivalent, open to debate, open to argument, arguable, debatable
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    1. 1.1Not clear or decided.
      ‘the election result was ambiguous’
      • ‘As I have argued before on these pages, that rage is morally ambiguous.’
      • ‘People have ambiguous, often funny notions about this ancient system of Indian medicine.’
      • ‘The painting may also be read as a glorification of the moral virtue of rural America or even as an ambiguous mixture of praise and satire.’
      • ‘The uncertainty of the public mood was mirrored by the ambiguous nature of the government.’
      • ‘His play has been described as an ambiguous presentation of two equally flawed characters.’
      • ‘However this is marred by the ambiguous lyrical content that attempts to pass itself off as meaningful.’
      • ‘The workers' status as private sector employees, though, is at best ambiguous.’
      • ‘Is it any wonder that his ambiguous hybrid art dissolves boundaries in such an equivocal manner?’
      • ‘Instead of tidy, maudlin conclusions, the film is handed an ambiguous closure.’
      • ‘Judging by the reactions of some in the audience, the content of the film wasn't ambiguous to everyone.’
      • ‘This ambiguous attitude makes his art cryptic: viewers are left grasping at answers.’
      • ‘Whether their other plans are ambiguous or meaningless is unclear.’
      • ‘Not only is it complex, ambiguous and inter-generational, but it is largely self-inflicted.’
      • ‘Then it strikes me that perhaps, like an ambiguous picture, both can exist simultaneously and have their own truth.’
      • ‘I wanted a book that showed us how ambiguous we are, or how ambivalent we are.’
      • ‘Or does moralizing have to take a more ambiguous tone to be acceptable?’
      • ‘Two viewings suggest that deciphering the complex, ambiguous plot may not be worth the effort.’
      • ‘Watching the disintegration of a man's dreams is uncomfortable, however morally ambiguous he might be.’
      • ‘It's an ambiguous performance that will leave the viewer with questions long after the lights go down.’
      • ‘But if the political climate is ambiguous, there's still reason to celebrate.’
      equivocal, ambivalent, open to debate, open to argument, arguable, debatable
      delphic, cryptic, enigmatic, gnomic, paradoxical, misleading
      obscure, unclear, vague, abstruse, puzzling, perplexing, riddling, doubtful, dubious, uncertain
      double-edged, backhanded
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Early 16th century (in the sense ‘indistinct, obscure’): from Latin ambiguus doubtful (from ambigere waver, go around, from ambi- both ways + agere to drive) + -ous.