Posted by: Becoming Gaia | Jun 2, 2010

Tergiversation (Word Of The Day)

I won’t do this often but I just can’t resist . . . .

Sometimes a piece of learning fits in so well, is so right, and so humorous . . . . that you just have to share it.

I was a double-checking the definition of apostasy before I made a fool of myself in a future post (not that that has ever prevented it ;-)) when an advertisement for Visual Thesaurus listed the related words as being:  defection, renunciation,  and tergiversation.

Never having seen the last word, I had to look it up immediately.  So let me save you the trouble . . . .

The Visual Thesaurus shows it as being between equivocation and apostasy.

The definition is fairly neutral:

  1. to change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate.
  2. to turn renegade.
1645–55; < L tergiversātus (ptp. of tergiversārī to turn one’s back), equiv. to tergi- (comb. form of tergum back) + versātus, ptp. of versāre, freq. of vertere to turn; see -ate

The American Heritage dictionary is a bit more blunt:

  1. To use evasions or ambiguities; equivocate.
  2. To change sides; apostatize.

The Online Etymology Dictionary is even clearer:

turning dishonestly from a straightforward action or statement; shifting, shuffling, equivocation, 1570, from L. tergiversationem (nom. tergiversatio) “a shifting, evasion,” from tergiversari “turn one’s back on, evade,” from tergum “the back” (of unknown origin) + versare “to spin, turn” (see versus).

Yes, folks, I give you “tregiversation” — the Inquisition’s version of that political staple we call “flip-flopping”.  So if you want to show off your intellectual chops, use it wisely (and don’t forget to credit this blog ;-))



  1. LOL. If I can remember how it’s spelled I’ll use it someday. Words like that always remind me of the late Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who would drop such a thing into a press conference just to watch the wiggling eyebrows and furrowing foreheads among the so-called literati. I loved that man.

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