Definition of vacillate in English:



  • Alternate or waver between different opinions or actions; be indecisive.

    ‘I had for a time vacillated between teaching and journalism’
    • ‘Since the time of his death informed opinion has vacillated between near universal confidence in his guilt and passionate attempts to exonerate him.’
    • ‘Well, I usually, keep on vacillating between being a hardcore realist and a hopeless romantic.’
    • ‘He vacillates between childlike bemusement and childlike trepidation.’
    • ‘My children bring me great joy (especially as the little ones vacillate between squirming with curiosity and tittering with barely kept secrets in anticipation of Christmas).’
    • ‘Ask her for an opinion, and she'll give it to you without any hesitation or attempts to vacillate.’
    • ‘It's difficult to say, but indeed I am vacillating between the two.’
    • ‘Certainly, public opinion of the royals has vacillated so much over the past couple of decades that anything is possible.’
    • ‘He has vacillated between contradictory approaches to leadership: realism and idealism.’
    • ‘The president vacillates between the two (hard-line and moderate) camps.’
    • ‘The first week or two I vacillated, like most people, between sadness and anger.’
    • ‘He vacillated when he was asked the direct question at an Irish press conference about the Sunderland job and immediately established in some people's minds the belief that he was actively looking for another job.’
    • ‘That's partly because the party's candidates have come across as vacillating on military issues and lenient on social concerns like crime and federal ‘giveaways’ to the poor.’
    • ‘Stay firm with decisions at work and don't keep vacillating.’
    • ‘‘The nation's top law enforcer cannot be someone who vacillates between civil rights and Civil War fantasies,’ Jackson wrote.’
    • ‘My listening tastes vacillate between music and talk radio.’
    • ‘In his later comments on the Marx Brothers, he vacillated between generosity and steely contempt.’
    • ‘Its programming vacillates between easily recognized art house fare and mainstream movies, giving the impression that it doesn't really know what it wants to be.’
    • ‘The government should give leadership, and not procrastinate and vacillate, he said, although he recognised it could take 20 years.’
    • ‘I don't know, I keep vacillating on whether I should practice so I could make a point in a very humorous way, or whether I should just stay off it.’
    • ‘However, years of indecisiveness have left the company vacillating between a differentiation strategy and that of being a cost leader.’
    irresolute, hesitant, tentative, dithering, wavering, teetering, fluctuating, ambivalent, divided, doubtful, unsure, uncertain, in two minds, undecided, indefinite, unresolved, undetermined
    dilly-dallying, shilly-shallying, iffy, blowing hot and cold
    dither, be indecisive, be irresolute, be undecided, be uncertain, be unsure, be doubtful, waver, teeter, temporize, hesitate, oscillate, fluctuate, keep changing one's mind
    haver, hum and haw
    dilly-dally, shilly-shally, blow hot and cold
    View synonyms


Late 16th century (in the sense sway unsteadily): from Latin vacillat- swayed from the verb vacillare.