Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Ballentine's Law Dictionary

    Double meaning; uncertainty.

  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    Doubtfulness; doubleness of meaning; indistinctness or uncertainty of meaning of an expression used in a written instrument. Nindle v. State Bank, 13 Neb. 245, 13 N. W. 275; Ellmaker v. Ellmaker, 4 Watts (Pa.) 89; Kraner v. Halsey, 82 Cal. 209, 22 Pac. 1137; Ward v. Epsy, 6 Humph. (Tenn.) 447. An ambiguity may be either latent or patent. It ls the former, where the language employed is dear and intelligible and suggests but a single meaning, but some extrinsic fact or extrancous evidence creates a necessity' for interpretation or a choice among two or more possible meanings. But a patent ambiguity is that which appears on the face of the instrument, and arises from the defective, obscure, or insensible language used. Carter v. Holman, 60 Mo. 504; Brown v. Guice, 46 Miss. 302; Stokeley v. Gordon, 8 Md. 505; Chambers v. Ringstaff, 69 Ala. 140; Hawkins v. Garland, 76 Vn. 152, 44 Am. Rep. 158; Hand v. Hoffman, 8 N. J. Law, 71; Ives v. Kimball, 1 Mich. 313; Palmer v. Albee, 50 Iowa, 431; Petrie v. Hamilton College, 158 N. Y. 458, 53 N. E. 216. Synonyms. Ambiguity of language is to be distinguished from unintelligibiiity and inaccuracy, for words cannot be said to be ambiguous unless their signification seems doubtful and uncertain to persons of competent skill and knowledge to understand them. Story, Contr 272. The term "ambiguity" does not include mere inaccuracy, or such uncertainty as arises from the use of peculiar words, or of common words in a peculiar sense. Wig. Wills, i74.
    —Ambiguity npon the factnm. An ambiguity in relation to the very foundation of the instrument itself, as distinguished from an ambiguity in regard to the construction of its terms. The term is applied, for instance, to a doubt as to whether a testator meant a particular clause to be a part of the will, or whether it was introduced with his knowledge, or whether a codicil was meant to republish a former will, or whether the residuary clause was accidentally omitted. Eatherly v. Eatherly, i Cold. (Tenn.) 461, 465, 78 Am. Den. 499.