Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by SorJuanaInes, Jun 12, 2013.

  1. SorJuanaInes New Member

    United States
    English - United States
    Hi all,

    In Spanish, equivocarse means "to be mistaken" / "to be wrong" (with no connotation of intent--it can be accidental or intended)

    In English, equivocate means "to use ambiguous language with a deceptive intent" (as in, to avoid the truth on purpose)

    Both come from the Latin equivocare, meaning "to call by the same name." Does anyone know any further explanation of the connection? Where/when did the meanings of these words stray so far from each other?

    Thank you!
  2. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    I would think that the French would might have influenced English, that form is équivoque with the meaning: expression susceptible of a double signification, possibly misleading. Some what between the English and the Spanish. meaning.
  3. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    As does equivocal, the modern English replacement for Middle English equivoque.
    One shouldn't use reflexive forms for comparison as they can have very meanings very different from that of the base verb. The base verb equivocar means to confuse, to mix up. If you compare this meaning with that of equivocal, they are not that different.
  4. CapnPrep Senior Member

    This verb was derived from the earlier adjective aequivocus, a grammatical term used in Late Latin to describe ambiguous words. "Aequivoca sunt, quando multarum rerum nomen unum est, sed non eadem definitio, ut leo" (Isidore of Seville, Orig. II, 26). He is referring to the fact that the name "lion" can be used for a real lion, a painting of a lion, and for the sign of the zodiac.

    The development in meaning is from the fact that words can be ambiguous, to the confusion and hesitation that can result (whether intentionally or not), that is, misunderstanding, deception, non-commitment in general.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013

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