Skip to main content

Ambiguous vs Ambivalent


  • ‘Ambiguous’ (adj) means ‘open to more than one interpretation; not entirely clear’.
  • ‘Ambivalent’ (adj) means ‘having or showing uncertain or opposite views/attitudes about something or someone’.

What’s the difference between ‘ambiguous’ and ‘ambivalent’?

Because they share the same prefix (‘ambi’, meaning ‘both’ in Latin), these two words can be confused in meaning. They also carry the same connotation of uncertainty. However, they mean different things and occur in different patterns.

  • ‘Ambiguous’ is used to qualify things that are difficult to interpret, like situations or events, concepts, ideas, words, etc.
  • ‘Ambivalent’ is often used to describe a person’s state or position towards someone or something, and followed by the preposition ‘to’; e.g. ‘X is ambivalent to Y’.

Writing tip: Want to make sure your writing is accurate and academic-like? Writefull gives you the best language feedback on your texts, plus clever AI widgets to help you write. Install now.

How they’re used

Example sentences with ‘ambiguous’

  • New systems were designed to avoid ambiguous situations.
  • The country holds an ambiguous position towards the UN.

Example sentences with ‘ambivalent’

  • They have proved ambivalent about multilateral cooperation.
  • This article develops an ambivalent position on the author’s main theory.