ambiguous

Look to the adjective ambiguous when you need to describe something that's open to more than one interpretation, like the headline "Squad helps dog bite victim."

Newspaper headlines can be unintentionally funny when they're ambiguous. In "Squad helps dog bite victim," is the squad helping a victim of a dog bite or helping a dog bite a victim? The ambi- prefix means "both ways," while the guous part is from the Latin verb agere, "to lead or drive." Thus an ambiguous sentence or situation drives us in two different directions at once. The accent is on the second syllable, "big," which you can remember since something that's ambiguous can lead to big misunderstandings.

Definitions of ambiguous
  1. adjective
    having more than one possible meaning
    ambiguous words”
    “frustrated by ambiguous instructions, the parents were unable to assemble the toy”
    Synonyms:
    double-barreled, double-barrelled
    having two purposes; twofold
    double-edged
    capable of being interpreted in two usually contradictory ways
    enigmatic, oracular
    resembling an oracle in obscurity of thought
    left-handed
    ironically ambiguous
    multi-valued, multivalent
    having many values, meanings, or appeals
    polysemantic, polysemous
    of words; having many meanings
    uncertain
    ambiguous (especially in the negative)
    unclear
    not clear to the mind
    equivocal
    open to two or more interpretations; or of uncertain nature or significance; or (often) intended to mislead
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    Antonyms:
    unambiguous
    having or exhibiting a single clearly defined meaning
    monosemous
    having only one meaning
    clear
    readily apparent to the mind
    unambiguous, unequivocal, univocal
    admitting of no doubt or misunderstanding; having only one meaning or interpretation and leading to only one conclusion
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  2. adjective
    open to two or more interpretations; or of uncertain nature or significance; or (often) intended to mislead
    “the polling had a complex and equivocal (or ambiguous) message for potential female candidates”
    synonyms: equivocal
    double, forked
    having two meanings with intent to deceive
    evasive
    deliberately vague or ambiguous
    indeterminate
    of uncertain or ambiguous nature
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    Antonyms:
    unambiguous, unequivocal, univocal
    admitting of no doubt or misunderstanding; having only one meaning or interpretation and leading to only one conclusion
    unambiguous
    having or exhibiting a single clearly defined meaning
    absolute
    expressing finality with no implication of possible change
    straightforward
    free from ambiguity
    unquestionable
    not open to question
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  3. adjective
    having no intrinsic or objective meaning; not organized in conventional patterns
    “an ambiguous situation with no frame of reference”
    ambiguous inkblots”
    Synonyms:
    unstructured
    lacking definite structure or organization
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