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Latin ambiguus, from ambigere to be undecided, from ambi- + agere to drive


  • 1 a : doubtful or uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness <eyes of an ambiguous color>
b : inexplicable
  • 2 : capable of being understood in two or more possible senses or ways <an ambiguous smile> <an ambiguous term> <a deliberately ambiguous reply>


Ambiguity is the property of being ambiguous, where a word, term, notation, sign, symbol, phrase, sentence, or any other form used for communication, is called ambiguous if it can be interpreted in more than one way. Ambiguity is different from vagueness, which arises when the boundaries of meaning are indistinct. Ambiguity is context-dependent: the same linguistic item (be it a word, phrase, or sentence) may be ambiguous in one context and unambiguous in another context. For a word, ambiguity typically refers to an unclear choice between different definitions as may be found in a dictionary. A sentence may be ambiguous due to different ways of parsing the same sequence of words.