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

The higher levels, which provide more ambient sound, tend to amplify the exterior noises in strange ways, providing an almost ASMR-like experience, while the lower levels might as well just be cancelling the noise. Dan Seifert, The Verge, "Dolby Dimension review: headphones for your home," 14 Nov. 2018 Whether that’s daylight streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows, ambient interior lighting, or a mix of both, light can change the entire feel of a home. Madeleine Bokan, House Beautiful, "This House Has The Coolest Lighting You’ve Ever Seen," 19 Oct. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That helped bring some ambient air pollution down—not only from fine-particulate pollution but also from sulfur dioxide. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "In China, replacing coal and biomass stoves has saved lives," 21 Nov. 2018 Dunne suggests using plenty of candles, especially tealights, for an ambient vibe, while also cozying up in your favorite loungewear. Rachel Jacoby Zoldan, SELF, "The 8 Best Lessons I Learned Living the Lagom Life," 31 Oct. 2018 Essentially, a sound bath is a meditation class that aims to guide you into a deep meditative state while you're enveloped in ambient sound played by instructors, or sound therapists. Nicole Dellert, Allure, "I Tried a Sound Bath — Here's What This Meditative Practice Is Really Like," 24 Oct. 2018 Look no further for slinky guitars, plenty of breathy vocals, and of course, ambient indie pop. Nicole Demarco, Harper's BAZAAR, "28 Songs That Probably Aren't on Your Sex Playlist (But Should Be)," 8 Oct. 2018 Designed for maximum comfort and maximum ambient noise reduction, these headphones make sure nothing comes between you and your tunes. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "Bose's Best Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones Are $50 Off," 3 Aug. 2018 Using the SoundLab, including playing recordings of ambient noise from the actual site, allowed everyone to make decisions in real-time without having to set up installs in Pennsylvania. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, "A 93-Foot Tribute to United 93: The "Tower of Voices" 9/11 Memorial," 6 Sep. 2018 As a sleeping Camille (Amy Adams) dreams of her younger self, a chilling blend of wind chimes and ambient noise gradually rises in the background as the scene becomes more disturbing. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, ""You’ll notice there are a lot of 'mama' songs!"," 29 Aug. 2018 As the night went on and people stretched out on the grass or took one of the available canoes out on the water, lectures gave way to ambient music that sounded of whale calls and didgeridoos. Matthew Kronsberg, WSJ, "Vacation in Portugal the Less-Obvious Way," 10 Aug. 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

23 Nov 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).


a nest or breeding place

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