The Meaning of Ambiguous: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of ambiguous? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word ambiguous, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word ambiguous mean?

According to Definitions, Collins English Dictionary, and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English language, the word ambiguous is an adjective with many a possible meaning. The word ambiguous means having an uncertain nature, a lack of clarity or deliberate intent, or contradictory interpretations. Something that is ambiguous has a doubtful nature and can be interpreted in many possible senses. Ambiguous things could include a cryptic remark with intentional obscurity, an imponderable event, or something with deep significance or constructional homonymity that causes puzzlement. It is of great importance that when you are trying to explain something to someone, you do not have any ambiguity or perplexity to create a resultant mystification. Ambiguous is four syllables – am-big-u-ous, and the pronunciation of ambiguous is æmˈbɪɡjʊəs. 

Many things can be ambiguous, including an ambiguous answer, ambiguous reply, ambiguous words, ambiguous equivocal response, an ambiguous smile, the rock of ambiguous character, an ambiguous future, and ambiguous shape, the ambiguous nature of the question, an ambiguous passage, the ambiguous wording of the message, ambiguous instructions, an ambiguous utterance, an ambiguous embarrassing question, civil ambiguous silence, ambiguous inkblots, an ambiguous situation and more.

There are many other languages that contain words meaning affirm. You might notice that many of these words look and sound similarly to one another. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases that mean the same thing as well as look and sound similar across languages. This often happens when the two words or languages share a common Greek or Latin root or language of origin like Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word affirm is provided by Word Sense. Learn a new language today!

  •  Spanish: ambiguo‎
  •  Danish: tvetydig‎, flertydig‎, dobbelttydig‎
  •  Maori: rangirua‎
  •  Galician: ambiguo‎
  •  Czech: mnohoznačný‎ (masc.)
  •  Indonesian: rancu‎, kabur‎
  •  Georgian: ორაზროვანი‎
  •  Russian: двусмы́сленный‎
  •  Tagalog: talohimig‎, taluhimig‎
  •  Italian: ambiguo‎ (masc.)
  •  Dutch: meerduidig‎, dubbelzinnig‎, ambigu‎
  •  German: mehrdeutig‎ (doppeldeutig‎, zweideutig‎)
  •  Asturian: ambiguu‎
  •  Armenian: երկիմաստ‎
  •  Polish: wieloznaczny‎, dwuznaczny‎
  •  Albanian: i dykuptueshëm‎
  •  Korean: 모호한‎
  •  Romanian: ambiguu‎, cu multe sensuri‎
  •  Mandarin: 模稜兩可‎, 模稜两可‎ (móléng liǎngkě)
  •  Finnish: tulkinnanvarainen‎
  •  Macedonian: двосмислен‎ (masc.)
  •  Serbo-Croatian: višeznačan‎ (masc.), dvosmislen‎ (masc.)
  •  Bulgarian: двусмислен‎
  •  Turkish: belirsiz‎
  •  Portuguese: ambíguo‎, dúbio‎
  •  Japanese: 曖昧‎
  •  Thai: คลุมเครือ‎ (klum kreua)
  •  Catalan: ambigu‎
  •  Icelandic: óskýr‎
  •  Norwegian: flertydig‎, tvetydig‎
  •  Arabic: غامض‎
  •  Hungarian: többértelmű‎, kétértelmű‎, nem egyértelmű‎
  •  Swedish: tvetydig‎, dubbeltydig‎, (osäker‎)
  •  French: ambigu‎
  •  Latin: (amphibologice‎)

What is the origin of the word ambiguous?

Per Etymonline, the word ambiguous comes from the Latin ambiguus/ambig-uus, from ambigere, ambi and a form of agere in Indo-European roots.  

What are synonyms and antonyms of the word ambiguous?

There are many different words and phrases that someone can use in place of the word ambiguous. These equivalent words are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a useful English grammatical device to know. They are an easy way to build your vocabulary, and can help you avoid repeating yourself in conversation and written works. This list of synonyms for the word ambiguous is provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  backhanded
  •  difficult to catch
  •  iffy
  •  backhand
  •  indecisive
  •  enigmatic
  •  unspecified
  •  two-edged
  •  doubtful
  •  roundabout
  •  imprecise
  •  tortuous
  •  confusing
  •  problematic
  •  mystifying
  •  unintelligible
  •  in doubt
  •  delphian
  •  unsettled
  •  double-edged
  •  devious
  •  indistinct
  •  hazy
  •  misleading
  •  esoteric
  •  paradoxical
  •  vague
  •  debatable
  •  indefinity
  •  undefined
  •  indefinite
  •  dubious
  •  ambivalent
  •  elliptical
  •  non-specific
  •  digressory
  •  incomprehensible
  •  non-committal
  •  inscrutable
  •  cloudy
  •  cryptic
  •  unclear
  •  deceptive
  •  in question
  •  casuistical
  •  fuzzy
  •  elusive
  •  ambiguity
  •  unambiguous
  •  double
  •  enigmatical
  •  arcane
  •  multivocal
  •  amphibological
  •  abstruse
  •  puzzling
  •  blurred
  •  obscure
  •  nebulous
  •  contradictory
  •  indirect
  •  unsure
  •  undecided
  •  inexplicit
  •  loose
  •  unspecific
  •  double-barrelled
  •  unfathomable
  •  perplexing
  •  indeterminate
  •  borderline
  •  equivocal
  •  open to argument
  •  impenetrable
  •  polysemous
  •  blurry
  •  foggy
  •  bewildering
  •  arguable
  •  inexact
  •  dubitable
  •  evasive
  •  ill-defined
  •  inconclusive
  •  undetermined
  •  uncertain
  •  opaque
  •  fishy
  •  disputable
  •  confused
  •  mysterious
  •  open to question
  •  chancy
  •  left-handed
  •  questionable
  •  oracular
  •  clouded
  •  baffling
  •  oblique
  •  delphic

There are also numerous different words that have the opposite definition as the word ambiguous. These opposite words are called antonyms. Antonyms are also useful to know if you are working on expanding your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word ambiguous is also provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  absolute
  •  clear
  •  understandable
  •  bald
  •  unequivocal
  •  indubitable
  •  beyond doubt
  •  vivid
  •  obvious
  •  beyond a doubt
  •  blameless
  •  indisputable
  •  decisive
  •  audible
  •  manifest
  •  transparent
  •  beyond a shadow of a doubt
  •  sound
  •  plain
  •  exact
  •  clearly identified
  •  straightforward
  •  blatant
  •  be easily understood
  •  accomplished
  •  pure
  •  undoubted
  •  allowable
  •  as plain as a pikestaff
  •  irrefutable
  •  evident
  •  express
  •  determined
  •  intelligible
  •  clear-cut
  •  clear as a bell
  •  sure
  •  explicit
  •  undeniable
  •  as clear as crystal
  •  definite
  •  loyal
  •  writ large
  •  categorical
  •  complete
  •  patent
  •  univocal
  •  authentic
  •  lucid
  •  actual
  •  sustainable
  •  assured
  •  crystal clear
  •  legible
  •  tangible
  •  emphatic
  •  decided
  •  honest
  •  anti-corruption
  •  accurate
  •  unmistakable
  •  known
  •  strong
  •  definitive
  •  precise
  •  as sure as eggs is eggs
  •  beyond question
  •  palpable
  •  clearly defined
  •  unambiguous
  •  acceptable
  •  beyond dispute
  •  factual
  •  unarguable
  •  black and white
  •  incontestable
  •  admissible
  •  by the book
  •  graphic
  •  comprehensible
  •  broad
  •  angelic
  •  candid
  •  certain
  •  clearly understood
  •  positive
  •  recognisably different
  •  valid
  •  direct
  •  unquestionable
  •  authoritative
  •  appreciable
  •  distinct
  •  conclusive
  •  specific
  •  open
  •  perspicuous
  •  concrete
  •  good
  •  apparent

How can the word ambiguous be used in a sentence?

The word ambiguous can be used in many different ways in the English language. Below are a few different examples of ambiguous.

The prophetic texts were ambiguous, and there was no right answer to how they could be interpreted. 

The metrics for the benchmark performance evaluation for the company were very ambiguous. The entire concept was flawed and there was no clear way to measure the real-world problems. 

The dog bite victim’s uneasiness was met with an ambiguous statement from the owner and the officer’s equivocal behavior. She gained support on Facebook and Twitter, but the whole trial was a mess. 

The popularity of the potential female candidates was ambiguous in the polling around Princeton University. Despite the resources used to determine their numbers, they did not follow any conventional patterns. There was little frame of reference, and they simply had to hope for the best. 

The young chap was confused by the ambiguous, complex toy – it was not clear what effective move would make the toy do something. 

Overall, the word ambiguous means unclear or confusing. When explaining something to someone, make sure that you are not ambiguous!


  1. Ambiguous Synonyms | Power Thesaurus
  2. Ambiguous antonyms – 962 Opposites of Ambiguous | Power Thesaurus 
  3. ambiguous | Origin and meaning of ambiguous | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  4. Ambiguous antonyms – 962 Opposites of Ambiguous | Power Thesaurus 
  5. ambiguous: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense