6

Specify is the best I can think of, but it doesn’t by itself capture the change from ambiguity to less ambiguity.

For example:

"I spent my entire net worth to ride a ship", said Blake.

"Since when did boats become so expensive?"

Blake realized that he had been misunderstood, so he specified his statement. "It wasn't a boat. It was a rocketship that I paid exorbitant amounts of money to ride."

I’ve tried searching for synonyms of specify and clarify, but none of them does the trick.

A compound word or phrase would be acceptable.

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  • Answers go in the answer box, not the comment box.
    – tchrist
    Dec 30, 2021 at 1:16
  • 14
    Clarify seems to mean this: it fits in "He then clarified his statement". What's wrong with it?
    – Stuart F
    Dec 30, 2021 at 1:28
  • 2
    @StuartF Okay, on second thought, "clarify" is probably the way to go. Dec 30, 2021 at 1:32
  • 1
    Or maybe don't use an "intent of the sentence" word in this case -- it's telling and not showing. I almost prefer something like "he grinned fiercely before announcing ... ". Dec 30, 2021 at 14:54
  • 7
    I don't think you need a new word. You can inflect it to form "disambiguate".
    – Wyck
    Dec 30, 2021 at 15:30

13 Answers 13

48

"Clarify" works in the example sentence.

...so he clarified his statement:

The definition of "clarify" closest to the intended purpose is, "To free of confusion".

But the title asked for a word that meant to reduce ambiguity. "Ambiguity" is like a subset of "confusion". So we need a word that is like a subset of "clarify":

Disambiguate

linguistics: to establish a single semantic or grammatical interpretation for

It could be used as so:

... so he disambiguated his intended meaning of the word ship:

2
  • 1
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    – Community Bot
    Dec 30, 2021 at 3:42
  • 1
    This was the first word I thought of; it's common vocabulary, very obvious in meaning, and is widely used in both written and spoken English.
    – barbecue
    Dec 31, 2021 at 22:39
23

I think that "elaborated" or "clarified" works best for this specific example, since you're increasing precision more than reducing ambiguity. (There is a fair amount of overlap between the two, but "ambiguity" seems to suggest that there are multiple incompatible interpretations of the statement, rather than just a lack of detail.) But to answer the more general question, disambiguate has the exact meaning you're asking for.

1
  • 4
    +1 for mentioning disambiguate. That seems to most directly fit OP's need here.
    – A N
    Dec 30, 2021 at 15:30
18

Disambiguate

I would think the best fit would be Disambiguate. Literally,

“to remove the ambiguity from; make unambiguous:”

Dictionary.com

I don’t think that the fact that the word is not widely used is of any relevance. In the worst case your audience will fail to understand and choose not to educate themselves as to its meaning. In the best case it communicates precisely what you intend. Unless your audience is incapable for any reason of either understanding or enlightening themselves as to the meaning of the word, it seems like a reasonable risk to take. When I hear a word I don’t know, I look it up.

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  • While "disambiguated" is not the appropriate word in OP's situation, you are technically correct (the best kind of correct).
    – RonJohn
    Jan 1, 2022 at 22:56
  • After reading the OP’s question a second time I realized that my answer was probably not what they were looking for, which is why I up-voted the answer @ray gave.
    – quarterpi
    Jan 2, 2022 at 0:22
8

He then elucidated: 'There will be no water involved. It's a rocketship that I paid exorbitant amounts of money to ride.'

elucidate (v.)

Essential Meaning of elucidate

Formal: to make (something that is hard to understand) clear or easy to understand

The spokesman was asked to elucidate [=clarify, explain] the government's policies (to/for us).

When asked for details, he declined to elucidate further.

Transitive verb

To make lucid especially by explanation or analysis elucidate a text

Intransitive verb

To give a clarifying explanation m-w

For me, clarify by itself is more to rephrase, re-explain or clear up confusion. Elucidate is to provide additional details—a fuller/more detailed account. The choice of a verb may also depend on his original statement, which you didn't provide.

6
  • seems like "elucidate" is tied with "clarify". I wonder if there's a more specific word that has more to do with the reduction of ambiguity than the reduction of unclarity (if ambiguity is a subset of unclarity, I want a word that targets that subset) Dec 30, 2021 at 1:39
  • 3
    There is disambiguate, but it's more a linguistic term: "To establish a single semantic or grammatical interpretation for // "needed to disambiguate the phrase" m-w
    – DjinTonic
    Dec 30, 2021 at 1:42
  • 2
    @DjinTonic Software developer here - we also routinely use "disambiguate" as a term of art.
    – user888379
    Dec 30, 2021 at 15:23
  • 1
    Extremely odd is it to use elucidate intransitively. Dec 30, 2021 at 16:47
  • 1
    @TinfoilHat Can you elucidate?
    – DjinTonic
    Dec 30, 2021 at 17:29
4

He then elaborated on his statement: 'There will be no water involved. It's a rocketship that I paid exorbitant amounts of money to ride.'

Dictionary.com 7

to add details in writing, speaking, etc.; give additional or fuller treatment (usually followed by on or upon)

3

Your example sentence suggests qualify:

He then qualified his statement: etc.

Collins definition 3:

If you qualify a statement, you make it less strong or less general by adding a detail or explanation to it. I would qualify that by putting it into context. Boyd qualified his opinion, noting that the evidence could be interpreted in other ways. Synonyms: restrict, limit, reduce, vary

2

I voted for "qualified", he qualified his statement (to provide supporting information).

But literally disambiguated (disambiguation/disambiguation), although this does not reduce ambiguity, it eliminates ambiguity. This is now in common usage as this is the term used by Wikipedia.

Most of the answers here focus on words that are used to disambiguate.

"to be specific". (specify one from many).

"narrow it down". (this is a reducing expression).

"in particular". (one).

"specifically". (one).

"notably". (one example).

"reduces to". (one or more, but a refined selection).

and other qualify/filter/selection answers already given.

1

It’s hard to say without further context, but I believe the word you are looking for is qualified . . .

qualify, v.
II. To modify or moderate in some respect.
8. a. transitive. To modify (a statement, opinion, etc.) by the addition of some limitation or reservation; to make less strong or positive. Occasionally intransitive.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

Imagined context:

He said, “My rocketship is the first eco-rocketship ever.”

He then qualified his statement: “There will be no water involved. It’s a rocketship that I paid exorbitant amounts of money to ride.”

1
  • Sorry, I didn't see you had already proposed this one. Dec 31, 2021 at 2:55
1

Another possibility is particularise.

particularise [verb] [formal] [and -ize]

If you particularise something that you have been talking about in a general way, you give details or specific examples of it. [formal]

  • Mr Johnson particularizes the general points he wants to make.

[Collins]

particularize [verb] [and -ise]: to go into details ...

  • He said he had been treated rudely, then went on to particularize.

[Merriam-Webster]

But the expression

  • '[He then] went into details [about ....]'

is perhaps the most idiomatic phrasing.

1

How about 'illuminate'? It can be a precise synonym of 'clarify, or 'elucidate'.

0

In French the verb préciser would be right, I think.

Clarify is the verb most often used in politics reporting in English.

Disambiguate is better where ambiguity exists but it is seldom used in education (apart from IT education) or in the media and this might make its meaning less well understood.

0

What is, sharpen?

2. improve brush up polish up better enhance hone refine fine-tune

Oxford Languages

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  • 1
    Welcome! Note, you don't have to use the Jeopardy format here. Plain sentences are okay. (Best to include a link to the definition you provide.) Dec 31, 2021 at 2:54
0

Explain:

To give the reason for or cause of.

--Merriam-Webster.com

"That ship cost me my entire net worth to ride." He later explained "There was no water involved. It was a rocketship that I paid exorbitant amounts of money to ride."

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