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Ambiguous and Ambivalent

Fern asked about Ambiguous and ambivalent. The two contain the root ambi-, which means both. Ambiguous also leans on the Latin agere, to drive, resulting in the Literal Meaning “driving here and there.” Ambivalent contains the Latin valere, to be powerful, leading to the literal meaning “equal in power.”

Ambiguous applies to something external. If you encounter an ambiguous situation, it is vague, unclear, subject to misinterpretation. The wording of the contract is ambiguous, and may well lead to future lawsuits.

Ambivalent refers to an internal state. You find yourself caught up in indecision, switching back and forth, torn between opposing feelings or views. She is ambivalent about running for public office.

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Ambiguous and Ambivalent


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