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

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

Adjective 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. Noun observing how the survival techniques of primates vary with the ambient
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective These speakers will play custom ASMR sounds, including nature soundscapes and ambient sounds, some of which are related to cannabis like the sound of someone rolling or smoking a joint. Lindsey Bartlett, Forbes, 13 Apr. 2022 The cockpit voice recorder, or CVR, stores conversations between the pilots, their communications with ground-control personnel, and ambient sounds such as engine noise or cockpit movements. Benedikt Kammel,, 23 Mar. 2022 The electrolyte is made of a salt solution that is solid at ambient temperatures but becomes liquid when heated to 180 degrees Celsius—about the temperature at which cookies are baked. Anna Blaustein, Scientific American, 6 May 2022 The breezy ocean theme that runs through the project comes through with ambient touches, like echoes of crashing waves and yelps from seagulls, which help tie together tracks that mostly fall into a laidback, mid-tempo range. Julyssa Lopez, Rolling Stone, 6 May 2022 Nothing sets the mood on a summer night like ambient string lights. Gabrielle Hondorp, Popular Mechanics, 5 May 2022 The one that comes with the 2014 iMac was hard to use due to its ribbon cable serving other parts, like the microphones and ambient light sensor. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 2 May 2022 Time crystals were successfully introduced into their ambient environments. Rafil Kroll-zaidi, Harper’s Magazine , 27 Apr. 2022 However, the audience’s attention drifted during opening act Kara-Lis Coverdale, who kicked off the night with an experimental stream of ambient tunes. Annie Nickoloff, cleveland, 23 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Each offers true adaptive noise canceling, smart ambient features, plus JBL’s big signature sound. Mark Sparrow, Forbes, 5 Jan. 2022 Just before Scott came out, Lira said, the speakers blasted an ambient, humming noise, which stirred more panic inside her. Washington Post, 11 Nov. 2021 The smart display uses its Soli radar technology, microphones and the ambient and temperature sensors to measure your quality of sleep. Janhoi Mcgregor, Forbes, 4 May 2021 Electronic hearing protection is also designed to amplify low-level ambient sounds for better communication on the range. The Editors, Field & Stream, 11 Nov. 2020 For example, if your children are home and there is ambient noise during a videoconference call, most everyone will understand these days and take it in stride. Liz Bentley, Marie Claire, 16 Apr. 2020 Young kids need to be able to turn off the exterior ambient noise and just find calm, Ketchum said. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, 11 Apr. 2020 At Level C, a face mask connected to a filter strains hazardous particles out of the ambient air instead of totally replacing the supply with an SCBA or rebreather. Rob Verger, Popular Science, 6 Apr. 2020 If the ambient air is cooler, the material will solidify, insulating the wearer on the inside but matching the surrounding temperature on the outside. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 5 Mar. 2020 See More

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.

First Known Use of ambient


1572, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1892, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ambient


borrowed from Latin ambient-, ambiens, present participle of ambiō, ambīre "to visit in rotation, solicit (political support), seek to obtain, surround, encircle, embrace," from amb- "around, on both sides" + eō, īre "to go"; amb- going back to Indo-European *h2m̥bhi "around," whence also Germanic *umbi- (whence Old English ymbe "around, about," Old Frisian umbe, Old Saxon & Old High German umbi "around, about, concerning," Old Icelandic um, umb "around, about, beyond, over"), Gaulish ambi- "around (in names)," Old Irish imb, imm "around, about," Welsh & Breton am, Greek amphí "about, on both sides of," Armenian amb- (in ambołǰ "whole, intact"), Old Avestan aibī "for," Old Persian abiy "to, toward," Sanskrit abhí — more at issue entry 1

Note: The Latin prefix amb- is peculiar in that the expected linking vowel -i- never occurs; before consonants it syncopates, with consequent assimilation: -b- drops, and -m- becomes -n- before non-labial sounds (see amplexus, amputate, ancilla, anfractuous). Indo-European *h2m̥bhi may have developed from *h2n̥t-bhi, a frozen instrumental plural form of the noun *h2ent- "front, face" (see ante-). The same noun figures in *h2(e)nt-bhoh1 "both" (see ambi-).


derivative of ambient entry 1

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Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ambient.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for ambient


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

More from Merriam-Webster on ambient

Nglish: Translation of ambient for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ambient for Arabic Speakers


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