Definition of prevaricate in English:



[no object]
  • Speak or act in an evasive way.

    ‘he seemed to prevaricate when journalists asked pointed questions’
    • ‘While they talk and prevaricate, foot and mouth could be back in the country tomorrow, and if that happens both farming and rural-based tourism in this country will take 50 years to recover.’
    • ‘As for the moral arguments, let's insist on a full and complete discussion of those too - without the usual shilly-shallying and prevaricating.’
    • ‘Aside from our agent, I too was at a loss as to why we were still prevaricating over the deal.’
    • ‘Ipso facto, if an intelligent person continues to allege them, he is prevaricating.’
    • ‘It is extremely inappropriate for senior politicians to be prevaricating on the issue of corruption.’
    • ‘Why should they waste the time of the court and disgrace themselves by prevaricating like pickpockets merely to employ the barristers?’
    • ‘Why should we believe you when it is well known that all lawyers prevaricate?’
    • ‘I know I make it appear that I sit around all day wondering what my own skull looks like and prevaricating (and there is a fair amount of that, I have to say) but I do actually work quite hard.’
    • ‘You can't just sit about prevaricating forever.’
    • ‘Though anyone who knows me well also knows that if I were to begin prevaricating, I've a fiendish plan in reserve.’
    • ‘Instead, I'm prevaricating, dwelling on ‘stuff’, undoubtedly thinking too much, and generally needing motivation, probably in the form of a swift kick up the backside.’
    • ‘That is they kept quibbling and prevaricating and showing stubbornness.’
    • ‘There's no degree course in prevaricating, sadly, unless you count management science.’
    • ‘Procrastinating and prevaricating in the matter would amount to sanctioning an open season on minorities.’
    • ‘They don't have the balls to admit that they were caught out, so they attack and lie and prevaricate and do everything to shuffle out from under it.’
    • ‘They simply must stop prevaricating and comply with the WTO ruling.’
    • ‘Not dissembling, not equivocating, not prevaricating, not misinforming, not distorting.’
    • ‘When he believed in something, he was incapable of dissembling or prevaricating.’
    • ‘With reference to that last paragraph - am I prevaricating?’
    • ‘Having been awarded the game they then spent almost three weeks prevaricating before eventually deciding to play the game early last week.’
    be evasive, be non-committal, be vague, be ambiguous, dodge the issue, evade the issue, beat about the bush, hedge, hedge one's bets, fudge the issue
    be evasive, beat about the bush, hedge, fence, shilly-shally, shuffle, dodge, dodge the issue, sidestep, sidestep the issue, pussyfoot, equivocate, be non-committal, parry questions, be vague, vacillate, quibble, cavil, lie
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The verbs prevaricate and procrastinate have similar but not identical meanings. Prevaricate means ‘act or speak in an evasive way’, as in he prevaricated at the mention of money. Procrastinate, on the other hand, means ‘put off doing something’, as in the Western powers will procrastinate until it is too late. The meanings are closely related—if someone prevaricates they often also procrastinate—and this can give rise to confusion in use


Mid 16th century (earlier ( Middle English) as prevarication and prevaricator), in the sense ‘go astray, transgress’: from Latin praevaricat- ‘walked crookedly, deviated’, from the verb praevaricari, from prae ‘before’ + varicari ‘straddle’.