Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To stray from or evade the truth; equivocate. See Synonyms at lie2.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To deviate, transgress; to go astray (from).
  • v. To shift or turn from direct speech or behaviour; to evade the truth; to waffle or be (intentionally) ambiguous.
  • v. To collude, as where an informer colludes with the defendant, and makes a sham prosecution.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To shift or turn from one side to the other, from the direct course, or from truth; to speak with equivocation; to shuffle; to quibble.
  • intransitive v. To collude, as where an informer colludes with the defendant, and makes a sham prosecution.
  • intransitive v. To undertake a thing falsely and deceitfully, with the purpose of defeating or destroying it.
  • transitive v. To evade by a quibble; to transgress; to pervert.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To deviate; swerve from the normal or proper course; stray.
  • To swerve from the truth; act or speak evasively; quibble.
  • In law: To undertake a thing falsely and deceitfully, with the purpose of defeating or destroying the object which it is professed to promote.
  • To betray the cause of a client, and by collusion assist his opponent.
  • To pervert; cause to deviate from the normal or proper path, application, or meaning.
  • To transgress; violate.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. be deliberately ambiguous or unclear in order to mislead or withhold information

Etymologies

Latin praevāricārī, praevāricāt- : prae-, pre- + vāricāre, to straddle (from vāricus, straddling, from vārus, bent).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the participle stem of Latin praevāricārī, from prae- with vāricāre, from vārus, from Proto-Indo-European *wā- (“to bend apart”) (the root of ‘various’). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • Why should we prevaricate, just at the last? We never prevaricated before. I have got to die some time, and it's better to die when one is sick than when one is well.

    Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

    November 13, 2011

  • "Now, then, sir, don't prevaricate," he began - "don't prevaricate!"
    "I won't, sir," answered his son, mildly.
    "You will. With all my experience, I surely ought to know when a man is going to prevaricate or not," said his sire. "Now, sir, I am going to ask you a plain question, and I want a plain answer. I am a plain man, as you know."


    (Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours (1879), by Frank Leslie)

    August 5, 2008