What is the difference between "vague", "unclear" and "ambiguous"? All three have the same meaning to me, so when should each be used?

  • and nebulous too – Ooker Feb 2 '16 at 6:42

Vague means that the information is lacking in detail - if you give a vague description of something, the listener/reader won't be able to imagine the subject with much precision.

Unclear could mean the same but also might suggest that the information is confusing, either as a result of poor use of language or perhaps through contradicting information.

Ambiguous is when something can have more than one meaning or refer to more than one subject and the listener/reader might have difficulty knowing exactly what it is you are describing.


'Vague' is used where something lacks precision or detail, while 'ambiguous' is something that could have two meanings, or is open to interpretation.

"Where is David?" ~ "He is in Europe" is vague, as Europe is a big place and David could be in any of it.

"I saw David in my car" is ambiguous, because it is not clear whether 'I' or 'David' was in the car.

  • 1
    thanks roaring, your example are so clear to understand me. – phantom May 14 '12 at 5:56

The difference between "vague", "unclear" and "ambiguous"? Their difference is in USE ... But they all MEAN that something is not well defined.

  • 3
    But isn't the meaning of all words in English established by use? – Hot Licks Apr 10 '19 at 1:43
  • 1
    If the difference is in how they are used, please give examples of how use would affect their meaning. See the other answers: please note that your answer should add to the knowledge imparted by those answers. – Andrew Leach Apr 10 '19 at 7:31

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.