"Equivocate" - meaning to avoid giving a clear or direct answer to a question

Can someone clarify when the word "equivocate" should be used in a sentence?

Example (found here):

"I can tell when you're stressed out, because you'll equivocate and avoid all of my questions."

Since "equivocate" means avoiding to give a clear or direct answer to a question, why would the person in the example add "and avoid all off my questions" after saying that he'll equivocate? Isn't that counterintuitive?

Also, is it possible to equivocate with someone? - Example (found here):

"I don't appreciate when you equivocate with me, it seems disingenuous."

I assume equivocate was used incorrectly in this sentence as it would be the same as saying: "I don't appreciate when you avoid giving me a clear or direct answer with me, it seems disingenuous."

My intentions with this question is to understand when and how to use equivocate, it would be great if you in your answer could include my examples and explain how it might be right or wrong to use it in that scenario.

  • I don’t see what’s counterintuitive. One way to avoid directly answering a question is to equivocate. – Jim Jan 20 '18 at 22:46
  • equivocate means "avoiding to answer a question", so why, in example 1, did he add "and avoid all of my questions" - that's what equivocate meant. – Sebastian Nielsen Jan 20 '18 at 22:49
  • He’s treating equivocation as a style of question answering and is saying “by equivocating you’ll avoid telling me what I want to know.” – Jim Jan 20 '18 at 23:45
  • The legendary equivocation of Michael Howard when Jeremy Paxman attempted (on twelve separate occasions) to get a straight answer out of him. ---> youtube.com/… 'Did you threaten to overule him ?' – Nigel J Jan 21 '18 at 2:13

Equivocating is not just avoiding a question. It's using ambiguous words that can be interpreted in different ways. So, equivocating is a method to avoid answering a question. The word is often used when talking about politicians who don't want to make a statement. It's a valuable technique because it's hard to attack someone on points that are not clear. The equivocator can always respond he meant something differently.

Equivocate is intransitive. It's all right to say "Don't equivocate with me".

"I don't appreciate when you equivocate with me, it seems disingenuous."


"I don't appreciate it when you use ambiguous words (to avoid giving a clear answer) with/on me, it seems disingenuous."

I found an interesting sentence in the COCA corpus.

"The senator essentially said that he went there to tell the president that he was very angry about the fact that he seemed to equivocate white supremacist groups with protesters."

I think it is wrong, but I could be wrong. It is used as a transitive verb in the sense of confuse. This is similar to the Spanish verb equivocar which means to mix up.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.