am·​bi·​ent | \ ˈam-bē-ənt How to pronounce ambient (audio) \

Definition of ambient

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : existing or present on all sides : encompassing the ambient air temperature ambient light ambient sound
2 : of or relating to ambient music (see ambient entry 2 sense 2)



Definition of ambient (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an encompassing atmosphere : environment
2 : music intended to serve as an unobtrusive accompaniment to other activities (as in a public place) and characterized especially by quiet and repetitive instrumental melodies

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Did You Know?


Biologists explore the effects of ambient light on plants; acoustics experts try to control ambient sound; and meteorologists study ambient pressure, air, or temperature. All this can make ambient seem like a technical term, but when it first saw light of day, that all-encompassing adjective was as likely to be used in poetry as in science. John Milton used it in Paradise Lost, and Alexander Pope wrote of a mountain "whose tow'ring summit ambient clouds conceal'd." Both poets and scientists who use ambient owe a debt to the Latin verb ambire, meaning "to go around," the grandparent of our English word.

Examples of ambient in a Sentence


Keep the chemicals at an ambient temperature of 70°F. the bright ambient light of the room People shopped as ambient music played in the background.


observing how the survival techniques of primates vary with the ambient
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The add-ons ranged from a trailer hitch ($1,168) to ambient interior lighting ($3,036) to full leather upholstery ($3,157) with heated and cooled front seats ($631). San Diego Union-Tribune, "650-hp Lamborghini Urus is all beef, no bull," 14 July 2019 Despite being just 1-2% of the strength of daylight, this ambient level of incandescent home lighting can have 50% of the melatonin-suppressing influence within the brain. Mayo Oshin, Quartzy, "Five scientifically proven ways to fall asleep faster," 19 June 2019 The ring of white puffy clouds at the base of the column might be a sign of ambient air being drawn into the column and the condensation of water vapor. Fox News, "Raikoke volcano seen erupting in incredible image from space," 25 June 2019 The rough edges of the tape recordings fused well with his sparkling, ambient guitar work. Kat Bein, Billboard, "San Holo Looks Back on 'Album1' Tour: 'A Chapter of My Life Translated Through Music'," 13 June 2019 And within a few years, so will HIRAX: an array of dishes in South Africa, Botswana and Rwanda that will hunt FRBs in an environment free from ambient radio signals. Quanta Magazine, "With a Second Repeating Radio Burst, Astronomers Close In on an Explanation," 28 Feb. 2019 The drum brigade wandered in and out of their 90-minute set, adding a primal intensity to ODESZA’s hypnotic blend of ambient atmospherics with future bass thumps and house propulsions. Michael Rietmulder, The Seattle Times, "Review: Death Cab for Cutie, ODESZA’s Bellingham love fest starts summer early," 20 May 2019 In between courses, Clemens himself, accompanied by ambient jazz piano and tiny sounds of knives clinking on glasses, got on the microphone to express his gratitude to all who were present and lead a group-wide toast. Charlotte Diamond, Vogue, "Telfar Hosts a Southern, Family-Style Dinner at The Standard," 14 Feb. 2019 And possibly an ambient level of talent on the ball that few generations of defenders have ever had in the history of soccer too. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "To Premier League Defenders, Defending Is Only Half the Job," 20 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The first floor of the building will house Uncle Buck's, a bar with a North Woods theme that includes mounted buck trophies and LEDs that provide ambient lighting as well as accent lighting. Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "New bar-restaurants Uncle Buck's and Red Star will take advantage of location next to Fiserv Forum beer garden," 9 July 2019 Taking into account the nearby I-805 and Route 54, city staff noted that the ambient noise is already loud. David Hernandez, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Plans for Starbucks in National City move ahead," 24 June 2019 In a tribute to the man whose name has become synonymous with ambient music, astronomers renamed the asteroid formerly known as 81948 (2000 OM69) to Eno. Chris Boyette, CNN, "This musician and composer just got an asteroid named after him," 27 June 2019 The Mac Pro showcase across the street looked like an Apple product video come to life: everything perfectly arranged, the light calibrated to catch every inch of aluminum in a positive angle while intense ambient music played overhead. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Inside Apple’s walled garden, developers take cover from Silicon Valley’s storms," 21 June 2019 William Tyler is a creative and talented guitarist who’s had aspects of the American Primitive school and ambient music blended into his approach. John Adamian,, "Guitarist William Tyler playing Space Ballroom," 7 June 2019 His paper on the disability-rights aspects of ambient noise was presented at a recent meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. Joyce Cohen, Washington Post, "For those with hearing impairments, restaurant noise isn’t just an irritation. It’s discrimination.," 17 June 2019 The room hums with the ambient sounds of refrigerators and freezers, including the seldom-lonely gelato case at the front of the room. Patricia Escárcega,, "Review: At Bulgarini in Altadena, a gelato master tries his hand at pasta," 12 June 2019 The romantic retreat features a plush canopy bed, bespoke furniture, ambient lighting, custom-fit wooden floors, and an adjoining bubble bathroom for a loo with a view. National Geographic, "Pop into amazing bubble hotels around the world," 10 May 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ambient.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ambient


1596, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1624, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ambient

Adjective and Noun

Latin ambient-, ambiens, present participle of ambire to go around, from ambi- + ire to go — more at issue entry 1

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Statistics for ambient

Last Updated

20 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ambient

The first known use of ambient was in 1596

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More Definitions for ambient



English Language Learners Definition of ambient

technical : surrounding on all sides
of electronic music : quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times


am·​bi·​ent | \ ˈam-bē-ənt How to pronounce ambient (audio) \

Medical Definition of ambient

: surrounding on all sides the ambient environment ambient air pollution

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Comments on ambient

What made you want to look up ambient? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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