am·bi·ent | \ˈam-bē-ənt \

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

Both computers feature Retina displays with True Tone technology that is supposed to properly match colors to ambient lighting conditions. Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY, "Apple boosts oomph in priciest MacBook Pros," 12 July 2018 But nothing like that dark night sky, away from ambient city light, to make those fireworks spectacles pop. Chicago Tribune,, "Where to go for Fourth fireworks," 29 June 2018 Turn the backlight up to full?), but your PC will need to have an ambient light sensor to enable it. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Windows 10's big Insider build showcases Skype, a font maker and Task Manager tweaks," 28 June 2018 Gresock said the project was in compliance with ambient air standards set for such plants. Denise Coffey, Courant Community, "Not All Questions, Concerns Addressed At NTE Project Meeting," 2 July 2018 The top-of-the-line Ascent touring’s $44,695 does include a cargo cover as well as fancy floor mats, wood trim, ambient interior illumination and a rich-looking exclusive brown leather upholstery called java. Jeff Yip, Houston Chronicle, "Newly arrived 2019 Subaru Ascent fills three-row midsize SUV niche," 24 June 2018 In the experiments, the researchers increased ambient carbon dioxide levels to concentrations between 568 and 590 parts per million. Chelsea Harvey, Scientific American, "As CO2 Levels Rise, Rice Becomes Less Nutritious," 24 May 2018 Those particles are then combined with ambient air to create water as the waste product. Russ Mitchell,, "Nikola, a Tesla competitor, scores big electric truck order from Anheuser-Busch," 3 May 2018 The study is an analysis of what the WHO says is the world's most comprehensive database on ambient air pollution. Jen Christensen, CNN, "Which cities face most, least air pollution according to new WHO data," 1 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In the next full-page spread, all the ambient details are back as Chick flees, screaming. New York Times, "Brief Tales for New Readers and Little Listeners From Philip Stead and More," 29 June 2018 Though the company mentions high-frequency sounds as part of the ambient-audio collection process, these sounds aren't what will activate this hypothetical Facebook app's recording feature. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Facebook patent would turn your mic on to analyze how you watch ads," 28 June 2018 The drapes were drawn, the room lit only by the ambient glare of fluorescent tubes. Katrine Jo Andersen, The New Republic, "Rejected by A.A.," 27 June 2018 Blue ambient interior lighting is provided on the front and rear doors and door handles. star-telegram, "Jaguar introduces the XF Sportbrakefor 2018, bringing a wagon to the U.S.," 17 June 2018 Its ambient quality speaks to the work of Johannes Vermeer, who so skillfully blended light and color to tell a story. An Xiao Mina, The Atlantic, "That Merkel Photo Is More Like a Meme Than a Renaissance Painting," 11 June 2018 There’s a thrill in meeting anyone who’s reached a certain level of celebrity; the chance to bask in the ambient glow of art and fame and as-seen-on-TV. Leah Greenblatt,, "Remembering Anthony Bourdain: EW's unforgettable night out with the late chef and television host," 8 June 2018 Basically, Lightform, priced at $699, wants to replace the screens in your life with ambient, projected light. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "This fancy device turns your entire room into a screen," 26 June 2018 Scientists suspect that the dust has raised the ambient temperature around Opportunity, keeping its battery fully functional. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "NASA's Opportunity Rover Is Heroically Riding Out an Enormous Martian Storm," 11 June 2018

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


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


see ambient entry 1

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Statistics for ambient

Last Updated

21 Aug 2018

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

: surrounding on all sides

of electronic music : quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times


am·bi·ent | \ˈam-bē-ənt \

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).


one that holds something together

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