Ambiguity Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Ambiguity, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Ambiguity?

n. a criminal law procedure which involves the calling of the defendant to the court, after charges are filed against him. It consists of three parts, viz, 1.) he is called upon by the court and his identity is established, 2.) the whole indicment is read, so as to enable him fully understand the nature of charges to be produced against him in the court, and 3.) his statement is seeked for – if he confesses the charge, a confession is recorded in the presence of the judge; but on the contrary, if he pleads not guilty, that plea is entered for him.

History and Meaning of Ambiguity

Ambiguity is a term often used in legal settings to describe language that is vague or unclear. The term derives from the Latin word 'ambiguus' which means "having double meaning." At the heart of the concept of ambiguity is uncertainty or doubt, which can be problematic in legal contexts where precision and clarity are paramount. Ambiguity can occur when key terms or concepts are not clearly defined, when language is used in an imprecise or non-standard way, or when there are multiple possible interpretations of a word or phrase.

Examples of Ambiguity

  1. A contract may contain ambiguous language that makes it difficult for the parties involved to agree on its terms.
  2. A statute that uses vague language may be subject to different interpretations by judges and lawyers.
  3. In a criminal trial, an ambiguous statement made by the defendant could be used to argue for or against their guilt.

Legal Terms Similar to Ambiguity

  1. Plain meaning rule - This is a legal principle that suggests that the plain, ordinary meaning of language should be used in interpreting legal texts.
  2. Strict construction - This approach to legal interpretation requires a narrow, literal reading of the language used in a legal text.
  3. Judicial interpretation - When there is ambiguity in a statute or regulation, it falls to the courts to interpret the meaning of the law.