Printable Version
Pronunciation: i-kwi-vê-kayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To avoid explicit statements, to be vague, ambiguous or evasive, tergiversate. 2. Unable to make up your mind, make a decision.

Notes: Today's verb is based on an adjective, equivocal, which means "open to two or more interpretations, ambiguous". It comes with several lexical relatives, an action noun, equivocation, a personal noun, equivocator, and an adjective, equivocatory, with approximately the same meaning as equivocal, where the derivation began.

In Play: Corporate leaders, when boxed in a corner, often try to work their way out by equivocation: "When I asked the boss for a raise, she immediately began equivocating about how much costs have risen, prices fallen, other factors to evade the question." Politicians are known equivocators: "When asked if he supported the President's plan, Senator Foghorn equivocated by saying that he considered the President's plan a good one."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an English revision of the past participle, æquivocatus, of Medieval Latin æquivocare. This word was derived from æquivocus "of equal voice", made up of æqui- "equal" + vox (= voc-s) "voice". The sense of equivocate comes from the image of two voices calling out to you at the same time. The root of vox went into the making of vocare "to call, speak", which is found in many English borrowings from Latin and French. Among them we find vocation "a calling", evoke "to call out", vocal "related to the voice". (We should not equivocate in our gratitude to William Hupy for not hesitating to suggest today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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