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having mixed feelings about someone or something; being unable to choose between two (usually opposing) courses of action: The whole family was ambivalent about the move to the suburbs.
She is regarded as a morally ambivalent character in the play.
Psychology. of or relating to the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.
Contemporary Examples

But while the general electorate may be ambivalent about the outcome on Nov. 6, one key player is not: organized labor.
SEIU, AFL-CIO Driving Obama’s Ground Game Michelle Cottle October 31, 2012

The films were moderate successes, especially for an American market that has always been ambivalent toward foreign cinema.
A Comprehensive History of Toho’s Original Kaiju (and Atomic Allegory) Godzilla Rich Goldstein May 17, 2014

When it comes to elitism and everyman, we have a complicated, ambivalent, and often nonsensical relationship to both.
The Tricky Traveling Wardrobe Robin Givhan July 18, 2011

Public opinion is ambivalent, not adamant, with conflicting polls delivering contrary messages.
Prism and the NSA: Something Congress Can Agree On Lloyd Green June 15, 2013

But she denied those charges on the Christian Broadcast Network, once again highlighting her ambivalent stance on gay rights.
Is Palin for Gay Rights? Shushannah Walshe February 9, 2011

The phenomenon of a black upper class has always been complicated, ambivalent.
Obama and the Black Elite Patricia J. Williams August 20, 2009

Historical Examples

With the decline of this ambivalence the taboo, as the compromise symptom of the ambivalent conflict, also slowly disappeared.
Totem and Taboo Sigmund Freud

Let us recall that in our earlier discussion we took note of the ambivalent character of love.
Herein is Love Reuel L. Howe

Thus we find again that taboo has grown out of the soil of an ambivalent emotional attitude.
Totem and Taboo Sigmund Freud

Let us suppose the subject has ambivalent feelings toward his father.
A Practical Guide to Self-Hypnosis Melvin Powers


1916, originally a term in psychology; back-formation from ambivalence. In general use by 1929.


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