Definition of equivocal in English:



  • 1Open to more than one interpretation; ambiguous.

    ‘the equivocal nature of her remarks’
    • ‘Finally, there is evidence that propaliny evolved twice within Anomodontia, but much of it depends on how equivocal or poorly preserved features of Otsheria and Ulemica are interpreted.’
    • ‘This constellation of ideas provides a non-dogmatic and equivocal statement on the co-optation and dialectical struggle of Soviet art.’
    • ‘However, the evidence on industrial disputes is at least equivocal and there are indications of higher levels of conflict that challenge notions of quiescent workforces unwilling to take action.’
    • ‘His reply was oblique, equivocal, and we hurried on to other matters.’
    • ‘Certainly, where the evidence in question is equivocal, in the sense of ambiguous and uncertain and conjectural in nature, the probative force is of such diminished significance as to be valueless.’
    • ‘Second, the interpretation of histological characters is equivocal.’
    • ‘It is necessary to understand that, but it is necessary also to recognise that such decisions are morally equivocal, and that they may bring in their wake a dangerous disregard for legal rights in general.’
    • ‘This deformation renders interpretations of the original nature of such contacts equivocal.’
    • ‘Social-science research is often equivocal, but on the cost of parenthood to mothers in particular a truckload of research exists to establish how it limits economic options in every class.’
    • ‘No doubt its subversive yet equivocal message will keep gay fans debating long past Labor Day.’
    • ‘The equivocal mood produces a vague (but not dangerous) unease.’
    • ‘Although the ministers managed to adopt an agenda-setting declaration as a result of marathon negotiations, the road map is equivocal enough to allow each member to arbitrarily interpret it.’
    • ‘Some ambiguous changes were possible because of unresolved phylogeny or equivocal reconstruction.’
    • ‘And the statement of fact in the latter case seems to be less misleading and equivocal than in the former.’
    • ‘But where the contract does not tell the whole story or is equivocal as to who is supplying what and to whom, it will be permissible to substitute it by, or fill its gaps by reference to, the real deal.’
    • ‘If Auchter seems equivocal, the GED Testing Service website borders on the deceptive.’
    • ‘Is it any wonder that his ambiguous hybrid art dissolves boundaries in such an equivocal manner?’
    • ‘Battle's answer to this question is equivocal.’
    • ‘However, in single and double overexpressors the intersection was equivocal.’
    • ‘Except in the postcontact period, the Neanderthals had exhibited only equivocal signs of symbolic behaviors.’
    undecided, to be decided, unresolved, undetermined, uncertain, open, arguable, debatable, disputed, unanswered, open to debate, doubtful, in doubt, moot, up in the air, in limbo, in a state of limbo, in a state of uncertainty, indefinite, inconclusive, unconfirmed, unsolved, ongoing, pending
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    1. 1.1 (of a person) using ambiguous or evasive language.
      ‘he has always been equivocal about the meaning of his lyrics’
      • ‘They are equivocal and, in some cases, they are just wrong.’
      • ‘If he can demonstrate that Representatives and Senators who ask the hard questions don't get re-elected, Congress will be even more equivocal when faced with hard choices in the future.’
      • ‘And though he has fuelled the gossip columns with his love life, he nevertheless remains notoriously equivocal about the nature of his work, and evasive as to the life and personality behind it.’
      • ‘Cheung's colleague Philip Ho, of the Food and Environment Hygiene Department, which is responsible for identifying the creatures, was equally equivocal.’
      • ‘Not only are they thoroughly dubious policy; they are all ideas with a superficial popular appeal, and ones about which the Labor opposition is at best equivocal and most probably unhappy.’
      • ‘The opportunist card is once again never far from the top of the deck - they are equivocal about whether they will support it.’
      • ‘If the employer omits to reply, or is evasive or equivocal, the tribunal is entitled to make any inference it considers just and equitable.’
      • ‘Carr's attitude is both more equivocal and less consistent.’
      • ‘It was as impossible to be ambivalent about Diana as it is to be equivocal about going to war.’
      • ‘My equivocal response to Barone's piece worries me.’
      • ‘The editorials too often were equivocal; the Saturday edition gravitated towards froth and bubble where lifestyle matters ruled and the Business Section was in radical need of surgery.’
      • ‘If he remains evasive and equivocal about this issue as he was the day before yesterday, people will believe he has lied and his voters will withhold their support for him.’
      • ‘Well that sounds like a rather equivocal statement which I for one, and I'm sure many others in the community, are not pleased to hear.’
      • ‘They were neutral, they were equivocal, I agree.’
      • ‘I'm a bit more equivocal about pushing sole parents into the workforce, and certainly don't think they should be pressured until all their children have reached school age.’
      • ‘But other voices, less public, are more equivocal.’
      • ‘Each time the questions were asked, administration officials declined to answer them in public session or provided incomplete, equivocal responses.’
      • ‘Another third opposed it across the board, and the remaining third were equivocal or noncommittal.’
      • ‘However analysts we questioned are equivocal over the effect upon licensing costs.’
      ambiguous, indefinite, non-committal, vague, indeterminate, imprecise, inexact, indistinct, inexplicit, blurry, hazy, foggy, nebulous, borderline
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    2. 1.2 Uncertain or questionable in nature.
      ‘the results of the investigation were equivocal’
      • ‘Despite the limitations of the era's technology, the exercise ended as an equivocal success.’
      • ‘Another fundamental point is how to interpret equivocal tests.’
      • ‘Monteith reads the novels included in her study as offering equivocal answers to this question of microcosmic social change.’
      • ‘The result is skeptical and non-reductionistic, both good, but confusingly equivocal.’
      • ‘The logic of the reasoning that implies that, taken in isolation, past conduct is equivocal assumes, contrary to experience, that parties are as likely to breach their obligations as to perform them.’
      • ‘In contrast, three further compounds that were positive or equivocal in the bacterial assays were negative in GSA and mammalian assays (Compounds B, E and M).’
      • ‘Metaphors of evolution were often mobilised, although the equivocal nature of the concept of evolution necessitates care in our interpretation of how contemporaries used the term.’
      • ‘We have extensive experience with the strand displacement amplification test and have not experienced such a problem with equivocal results.’
      • ‘Therefore, results may remain equivocal or questionable regardless of the number of times the experiment is performed.’
      • ‘Note that other interpretations included not only incorrect diagnoses but also interpretations indicative of equivocal results or technical problems.’
      • ‘Given the equivocal nature of the evidence, deviations from these recommendations may, and should, occur.’
      • ‘The heterogeneity of the political climate, and the equivocal success of traditional ideological labels in differentiating parties, allows for a more complete test of the two-value hypothesis.’
      • ‘This information is helpful when managing patients with diabetes and end-stage renal disease because they tend to have equivocal PVR studies and problematic wounds.’
      • ‘In his closing submissions, Mr. Marler quite properly abandoned reliance on certain pleaded misrepresentations by Hillis considering the equivocal nature of the evidence.’
      • ‘The first has to do with the equivocal nature of the evidence for the doctrine.’
      • ‘The possibility is still open to his characters, but in an increasingly equivocal and doubtful way.’
      • ‘Overall, support for the direct influence of the economics of language on multilingualism was equivocal.’
      • ‘Success was equivocal, until it was pointed out that the charm lacked a joint.’
      • ‘Many experts claim that they do not occur in the Olympic Mountains, although there is some equivocal evidence to the contrary.’
      • ‘His failure in this respect left Anglo-Irish relations in an equivocal and uncertain state.’
      controversial, contentious, open to question, open to doubt, in doubt, doubtful, dubious, uncertain, unsure, debatable, in dispute, in question, arguable, problematic, problematical
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Mid 16th century: from late Latin aequivocus, from Latin aequus ‘equally’ + vocare ‘to call’.