This is a discussion around the tag .

You can have an ambiguity. You can remove it by disambiguation. But "disambiguity" isn't a word. source

  • 1
    Knew there was a way to do it, but couldn't remember it. Thanks @AndrewLeach.
    – AndyT
    Feb 10 '17 at 14:37
  • 2
    Now I'm a Texan, and we love our vocabulistics and worduggery, but unless it's a misspelling we're using as a synonym to proactively prevent typo tags, made-up words should not be tags. I would rename it and pretend disambiguities never existed.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 11 '17 at 1:29

Here are the questions, grouped by how they appear to me upon cursory examination. I'm not going to unilaterally change so many at once. I'll leave it to a mod. :)

If this suggestion is sound, then we'll have no more questions under the tag, and it can be summarily dismissed. I don't think needs to be kept when we already have and .

Some of the questions were closed at the time of preparing this answer. It's arguable that we should just delete the tags from closed questions. But since they might be reopened at a later stage, I've just grouped them along with open questions of the same category.

  1. Fits the tag (one word/thing with multiple meanings). Replace with in the question's tag list:

  2. References multiple words that can be easily mixed up - should replace with according to the notes in :

  3. Referencing ambiguities doesn't help - delete the tag from the question's tag list altogether:

  • Regarding point no. 2, is there a practical difference between confusables and differences? I just want to know so we do not just accidentally trade one problem for another if it turns out that we need to get rid of confusables as well.
    – Tonepoet
    Feb 12 '17 at 19:02
  • @Tonepoet Thanks for pointing out the differences tag. (It led to this gem.) Although one might argue that confusables relates to words spelt similarly or that it tends more towards similarity and differences more towards, well, differences, in practice they are used as tag synonyms. Feel free to propose to combine them, and then to update the tag info for ambiguity.
    – Lawrence
    Feb 12 '17 at 23:22

Regarding Words

First I do not presently remember if there are any explicit preexisting rules on the website preventing neologisms from being tags. If there is not, whether it would or would not be wise to implement such a rule it is arguable. On the one hand, the tags

Regardless, I am not really sure if I trust your citation against it being a word for a few reasons:

First, noun endings to words prefixed with the word dis- exist, such as disillusion and disenchantment in Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary.

Second, even if it does violate the rules of morphology, complete abominations such as irregardless have been considered as words to a greater or lesser degree by reputable sources.

Third, based upon the definition of the word provided in Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition, the Oxford English Dictionary does not contain all lexemes in the language. That would require it to contain every single word as a subset, and Oxford openly admits they do not have every word in the O.E.D. due to the sheer impossibility of the task.

Finally, given that Wiktionary is a sanctioned and sometimes even recommended resource on this website, this suggests that it may be a word sanctioned by usage. No, it is not on their webpage currently, but it meets their criteria of inclusion. The most relevant portions, which are licensed under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license, are as follows (sans footnote indicators):

General Rule

A term should be included if it's likely that someone would run across it and want to know what it means. This in turn leads to the somewhat more formal guideline of including a term if it is attested and, when that is met, if it is a single word or it is idiomatic


“Attested” means verified through

  1. clearly widespread use, or

  2. use in permanently recorded media, conveying meaning, in at least three independent instances spanning at least a year (different requirements apply for certain languages).

Just to prove that it meets this criteria here are three quotations from printed books:

The sense of order is founded in the disambiguity between the individual and the whole.

                          (Stockhausen 1952: 18)

Composed Theatre: Aesthetics, Practices, Processes edited by David Roesner, Matthias Rebstock

To assign semantic disambiguity and define the intended meaning of these definitions, a formal semantics can be employed as a next step.

Ontologies-Based Business Integration by Michael Rebstock, Fengel Janina, Heiko Paulheim, page 100

Finally, for those who remain skeptical of the assertion that direct resistance messages are not offensive to males and who put a premium on politeness, an untested but intuitively attractive compromise can be suggested: if the assumption is that an indirect resistance message is more acceptable because it lets him down more gently, or some such, then it might be useful to combine the presumed softness of the preferred indirect message along with the disambiguity of a direct message. For example, instead of "You know, it's getting late," try "You know, it's getting late; we need to stop."

Studies in Applied Interpersonal Communication edited by Michael T. Motley, page 141

Also, just for good measure, here is an instance of it being used as a pluralized count noun:

Used here are the translator's mark on the translation, the signature "solves" the personal ambiguities and disambiguities of language in translation.

Wittgenstein in Translation: Exploring Semiotic Signatures by Dinda L. Gorlée, page 4

So even though it is not presently on Wikitionary, it probably should be added, and if it ever is that would make it somewhat hypocritical of us to bar it from being considered a word when we could use wikitionary to corroborate an question. All that needs to happen is for it to be adequately defined according to its usage and included on their website, which does not seem too hard. If it is not the direct antonym of ambiguity, then it is probably the state of being unambiguous.

Maybe you are not persuaded by this evidence that disambiguity is a word. I have trouble believing it myself, even though if I am the one making the proposition. However I am doing it so more so to play the role of the devil's advocate. We could argue all day over what constitutes a non-word but until we can agree upon what constitutes a fast rule of what constitutes a word for the purposes of tagging most of us can agree upon, such as it must appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, I doubt we can objectively disqualify disambiguity from being considered a word. As such, we should not yet delete it on that basis alone and I would suggest that we make another question regarding what kind of words may be used in tags to settle that matter, if one does not already exist.

Other Factors

However, I think there might be justification for its removal. The tag is not especially popular and has no usage guidance, so unless we can find a distinct purpose for it, it probably should be removed in favor of a more popular tag.

It seems to me as if a number of questions tagged as ambiguities would be better served by other, more popular tags. Consider "jam," "jelly," and "jello" in AmEng vernacular for instance. It is the top voted for question with this tag, and where it uses the tag it would probably be better for it to use the tag.

The second most voted for question with the tag, which is Word meaning "its meaning stands alone". That seems like it should be tagged as a , rather than any of the tags it has now.

No other questions with this tag presently have five or more votes, and there is not more than a page of them which isn't very promising.

As there is only a single page worth of questions with this tag, I would recommend retagging the questions as or maybe instead of where applicable. Then we can analyze the remaining questions, and see if they have anything in common worth keeping a separate tag. If they do we should probably just leave them alone, and if they do not, then there is no harm in deleting it to simplify the process of categorization.

  • 1
    Cheeses, it's only a meta question about a tag that has 19 questions. There is too much unnecessary detail.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 12 '17 at 8:44
  • What are you saying, should the tag be kept: So even though it is not presently on Wikitionary, it probably should be added, and if it ever is that would make it somewhat hypocritical of us to bar it from being considered a word when we could use wikitionary to corroborate an is-it-a-word question. Or should it be dumped: As there is only a single page worth of questions with this tag, I would recommend retagging the questions as differences or maybe word-choice instead of disambiguities where applicable. ?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 12 '17 at 8:51
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA If it was really just about this tag, I might not have bothered but Meta-threads set precedent, so nothing should be done unless it is for the right reason. Complicating the matter is the implicit assumption that nonwords should not be in tags. That sounds reasonable on first impression, but can be very problematic if we don't know just what those are. I think that matter should be handled separately. Right now, I just want to reduce the number of questions to consider by eliminating redundancies, so we can consider the remaining ones in isolation before we cast final judgement.
    – Tonepoet
    Feb 12 '17 at 17:47

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