Ambiguity Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

Ambiguity is one of the most interesting words in the English language — this is everything you need to know about ambiguity’s meaning!

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Ambiguity is one of the most common things in the world today. No matter where you look, you’re likely to find things that don’t make sense to you or have various meanings. Working through these meanings often requires intentional focus on context, social cues, and other things that need more thought than normal. 

Despite the confusion that ambiguity brings to the world, it’s still an exciting and powerful linguistic asset in communication. Its more confusing characteristics make it attractive to some people, and through that, it has become a unique marketing tool for many companies worldwide. 

Here is everything you need to know about what ambiguity is, where the word comes from, and how it is used in the modern world. 

What Does Ambiguity Mean? 

The definition of ambiguity (ambi-gu-ity) is the quality of being uncertain. It can refer to:

  • A general feature of language or languages is a feature that occurs in most or all languages.
  • The quality of having more than one meaning.
  • A lack of clarity about what a speaker actually means in a given context leaves the listener unsure about the message’s meaning.

Ambiguity is a word that describes a state of being unclear or having more than one possible meaning. This word can be used in various ways but most commonly refers to language and literature. 

In linguistics, ambiguity is when a single phrase or word can have multiple meanings. In literature, authors often seek to use ambiguity as a literary device for doubtfulness. For instance, an author may use lexical ambiguity to create a sense of confusion or tension in the piece. 

When a product is ambiguous, that means the information in its description or on its website doesn’t give enough detail and precise information to enable a decision by readers. For instance, if your business sells products like air fresheners and other items related to cleaning and housekeeping, your description might say something like this: “Our air fresheners help make any room smell wonderful! You can get them in many different scents… just ask.”

If you were to look in a thesaurus for word lists of synonyms, you’d likely find words like these ones: 

  • Cryptic
  • Obscure
  • Mysterious
  • Inscrutable
  • Murky
  • Enigmatic
  • Opaque
  • Unclear
  • Uncertain
  • Complicated

What is the Etymology of the Word Ambiguity? 

Ambiguity has come from Latin ambiguitas, meaning “to be double” or “mixed up.” The idea of ambiguity can be traced back to ancient Rome. Ambiguity in Roman law was actually a tool used to get around other laws and keep everyone safe. 

For example, if Caesar was traveling and found a commoner who was not paying their taxes, Caesar would seize their property until they paid the taxes owed. But if they were caught trespassing on public land, they could avoid punishment by saying that it was unclear whether they owned the ground or not. 

As time went on, the word became the French ambiguite, from which Middle English borrowed the term. This word is interesting because it acquired meanings as it went from language to language, which accentuated its uncertainty of meaning. But around the time that the word entered British English and then American English, the word solidified its modern definitions and meanings. 

This happens commonly in countless words and languages, but the word ambiguity is one of the most interesting examples. 

Example Sentences Using the Word Ambiguity

If you’re looking to understand the different types of ambiguity usages in the English language, one of the best things you can do is look at the word being used in example sentences. That will make it much easier to start incorporating the word into your own conversations daily and make effective communication much more straightforward and powerful. 

Here are some great examples to look into: 

Because of the semantic ambiguity, I couldn’t really tell what was going on in the story. 

The definitions of the words on the word of the day part of the website were really ambiguous, which led to a lot of confusion among the viewers. 

Every time I walk down the streets of New York, I get a lot of ambiguous looks, presumably because of how my hair looks. 

The moral ambiguity of the story’s main character was one of the most intriguing aspects of the book. 

All of the fallacies they were using in the courtroom made the whole dilemma more and more ambiguous. 

The random house on the end of the street had a somewhat ambiguous architectural origin, which was fascinating to college students. 


While there might be a lot of ambiguous words in the English language, that doesn’t mean that they have to stay that way to you. With our blog here at The Word Counter, we’re constantly looking to provide information on how to make the best use of the English language. 

While the internet may have skyrocketed the rate at which languages shift and change, using our blog can help you know how to use words, phrases, and grammar most appropriately. 

If you want to truly maximize your ability to succeed in the world, feel free to look around our latest posts here on the blog! Just a couple minutes of browsing can give you critical knowledge that you’ll take with you for the rest of your life! Click here to learn how you can truly maximize your communication skills in the most appropriate and powerful ways! 


  1. Ambiguous Definition & Meaning |
  2. Ambiguous – Definition, Meaning & Synonyms |
  3. Ambiguous Definition and Meaning | Collins English Dictionary