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I was interested in the following sentence which appeared in a news article titled “SCIENCE WATCH; PROGRESS IN AIDS DISPUTE” in The New York Times (March 10, 1987).

Dr. Robert Gallo at the cancer institute later isolated the same virus and asserts that his laboratory first demonstrated unequivocably the role of the virus in causing AIDS.

After searching on Oxford Dictionaries, I have found no item for "unequivocably", but I got a lot of hits (139.000) from Google; so I am wondering if "unequivocably" is in common usage nowadays.

Can someone clarify this question? Or is "unequivocably" a common error?

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  • As you said, Google search on unequivocably shows about 139,000 results but below that it says "Did you mean: unequivocally" and searching "unequivocally" shows about 8,880,000 results.
    – Wishwas
    Commented Jun 4, 2012 at 12:12
  • What Wishwas said. This is General Reference. Commented Jun 4, 2012 at 16:10
  • I searched for and came across this question after watching an episode of the TV show "Crusade" called "The Well Of Forever" in which one of the characters says "unequivocably" but in the DVD subtitles it says "unequivocally". Interesting that the subtitles are actually more correct than the actual show on this occasion.
    – Kidburla
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 22:01

1 Answer 1

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The correct word is unequivocally. Unequivocably is wrong.

According to Merriam-Webster, unequivocably is a non-standard word for unequivocally. Its first known use was in 1917.

The word (unequivocally) was perhaps altered by drawing an analogy between unequivocal and, say, understand. Understand changes to understandably, so they changed unequivocal to unequivocably. Though, as I said, it's wrong.

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    If it's so commonly used, should it still be wrong? English is constantly evolving, let's add another change.
    – user30712
    Commented Nov 11, 2012 at 3:23
  • I came here to figure out if these two words have subtly different meanings or if they are synonyms. My first instinct was actually that -bly was the proper term because it flows through my mouth somewhat more fluidly. What a surprise.
    – Steven Lu
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 22:55

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