Humanities › English Ambiguous vs. Ambivalent Share Flipboard Email Print Sdominick/E+/Getty Images English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated November 04, 2019 The adjectives ambiguous and ambivalent both involve a degree of uncertainty, but the two words are not interchangeable. Definitions The adjective ambiguous means doubtful or unclear, open to more than one interpretation. The adjective ambivalent means holding opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, object, or idea. Examples Jim ParsonsHold on. 'Bimonthly' is an ambiguous term. Do you mean every other month or twice a month?David CarrollEven if we only briefly consider multiple meanings of ambiguous words, it is somewhat puzzling that we do it at all. After all, in most contexts only one of a word's meanings is relevant.Vernon A. WaltersAmericans have always had an ambivalent attitude toward intelligence. When they feel threatened, they want a lot of it, and when they don't, they regard the whole thing as somewhat immoral.Aeon J. SkobleThematically, film noir is typically said to be characterized by moral ambiguity: murky distinctions between good guys and bad guys, ambivalence about right and wrong, conflicts between law and morality, unsettling inversion of values, and so on.Winona Ryder and Vanessa RedgraveSusanna: I'm ambivalent. In fact, that's my new favorite word.Dr. Wick: Do you know what that means, ambivalence?Susanna: I don't care.Dr. Wick: If it's your favorite word, I would've thought you would.Susanna: It means "I don't care." That's what it means.Dr. Wick: On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings . . . in opposition. The prefix, as in "ambidextrous," means "both." The rest of it, in Latin, means "vigor." The word suggests that you are torn . . . between two opposing courses of action.Susanna: Will I stay or will I go?Dr. Wick: Am I sane . . . or, am I crazy?Susanna: Those aren't courses of action.Dr. Wick: They can be, dear--for some.Susanna: Well, then--it's the wrong word.Dr. Wick: No. I think it's perfect.