Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community Comment

A Word A Day — equivocal

Good evening Netizens...

April 07, 2013

Word of the Day

  • equivocal
  • audio pronunciation
  • \ih-KWIV-uh-kul\


a : subject to two or more interpretations and usually used to mislead or confuse b : uncertain as an indication or sign
a : of uncertain nature or classification b : of uncertain disposition toward a person or thing : undecided c : of doubtful advantage, genuineness, or moral rectitude

Unfortunately, scientists have yet to develop an effective means of early detection for the disease; the tests that are currently available tend to produce equivocal results.

"Schneider was equivocal on whether he thought the replacement officials working the game should have ruled the play a catch instead of an interception…." — From an article by Pete Dougherty in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, February 21, 2013


"Equivocal," "vague," and "ambiguous" all mean "not clearly understandable" and are used to describe confusing speech or writing. "Equivocal"—which can be traced back to the Latin prefix "aequi-" ("equi-") and the Latin word "vox" ("voice")—applies to language left open to differing interpretations with the intention of deceiving or evading ("moral precepts with equivocal phrasing"). "Vague" implies a lack of clear formulation due to inadequate conception or consideration ("I had only a vague idea of how to get there"). "Ambiguous," like "equivocal," applies to language capable of more than one interpretation but usually does not have the negative connotations of deception or evasion ("the poet's wording is intentionally ambiguous").

From Merriam-Webster Online at



Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.