amphibology

Definitions

  • WordNet 3.6
    • n amphibology an ambiguous grammatical construction; e.g., `they are flying planes' can mean either that someone is flying planes or that something is flying planes
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n Amphibology A phrase, discourse, or proposition, susceptible of two interpretations; and hence, of uncertain meaning. It differs from equivocation, which arises from the twofold sense of a single term.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n amphibology The use of ambiguous phrases or statements.
    • n amphibology In logic, a sentence which is ambiguous from uncertainty with regard to its construction, but not from uncertainty with regard to the meaning of the words forming it. A good example of amphibology is the answer of the oracle to Pyrrhus: “Aio te Romanos vincere posse.” Here te and Romanos may either of them be the subject or object of vincere posse, and the sense may be either, you can conquer the Romans, or, the Romans can conquer you. The English language seldom admits of amphibology. For an English example, see second extract under amphibolous.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Amphibology am-fib-ol′o-ji the use of ambiguous phrases or such as can be construed in two senses. A good example is Shakespeare's 'The duke yet lives that Henry shall depose' (2 Henry VI., I. iv. 33)—also Amphib′oly
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Etymology

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
L. amphibologia, for amphibolia, fr. Gr. 'amfiboli`a, with the ending -logia, as if fr. Gr. 'amfi`bolos ambiguous + lo`gos speech: cf. F. amphibologie,. See Amphiboly
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
Gr., from amphi, on both sides, ball-ein, to throw.

Usage

In literature:

Why shoulde I goe gadding and fisgigging after firking flantado Amphibologies, wit is wit, and good will is good will.
"The Unfortunate Traveller, or The Life Of Jack Wilton" by Thomas Nash
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