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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective With no fans in the stands and little ambient noise, the grief Greene has been getting has been audible and, yes, entertaining. Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Brewers minor-league instructor Charlie Greene getting a different look at the game in summer camp," 11 July 2020 Local weather forecasts call for ambient temperatures between 96-98 degrees next weekend, with heat indexes ranging between 105 and 110. John Sturbin, Dallas News, "NASCAR Cup Series drivers gear up for a ‘miserably hot’ O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway," 11 July 2020 The glossy, streamlined fourth-generation A8 is a stunner, from the sporty new grille to the interior’s ambient lighting. Kym Allison Backer, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Road Trip Cars for Exploring Solo, Sightseeing with Family, and More," 26 June 2020 Cheer up the room with ambient lighting, such as a fun floor lamp, string lights, or paper lanterns. Kristina Mcguirk, Better Homes & Gardens, "Create a Home-Away-from-Home with These Dorm Decorating Ideas," 25 June 2020 The project, which features 11 tracks of ambient, soothing music, was recorded by Kunin and co-produced with her husband Abraham Kunin, who composed the music. Toyin Owoseje, CNN, "Dalai Lama marks his 85th birthday with his first ever album release," 6 July 2020 Doctors start off with half oxygen and half ambient air and increase the concentration of oxygen up to 100% if necessary. Mallory Moench,, "Bay Area doctors explain the COVID-19 treatments they’re using now," 3 July 2020 There’s also no active noise cancellation or even ambient sound features on these. Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored, "Surface Earbuds deliver on comfort and sound, but the price leaves you wanting more," 2 July 2020 The holiday pyrotechnic smoke can be so thick, in fact, that historically, epidemiologists studying ambient levels of metal in the air actually throw out the data around these two dates. Matt Simon, Wired, "Your Firework Smoke Could Be Tainted With Lead," 2 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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, "How Do I Focus on Work When Everything Happening in the World Is so Stressful?," 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, "Ford designer's daughter colored his top-secret Bronco sketches — and it sparked an idea," 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, "How the National Guard dresses for COVID-19 and other disasters," 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, "This Thermal Camo Wearable Is the Predator's Worst Nightmare," 5 Mar. 2020 Direct air capture extracts carbon dioxide from power plants’ flue gas or the ambient air, storing it underground or depositing it as minerals in building materials. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, "A stable climate may require a carbon removal industry twice as big as the one for fossil fuels," 25 Sep. 2019 When the ambient air exceeds the normal body temperature of 37°C (98.6°F), the only way to keep from overheating is by evaporative cooling—a.k.a. Aryn Baker, Time, "What It’s Like Living in One of the Hottest Cities on Earth—Where It May Soon Be Uninhabitable," 12 Sep. 2019 Fake a Campfire A headlamp at the base of a full Nalgene delivers a nice ambient light that can be a pretty charming campfire substitute. Joe Jackson, Outside Online, "Gear Hacks to Keep Your Kids Entertained at Home," 16 Apr. 2020 True Tone [that] adjusts the white balance to match the ambient light for a more natural, paper-like viewing experience. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, "The New iPhone SE Is Smarter, Faster, and Cheaper Than You'd Expect," 16 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for ambient

Time Traveler

The first known use of ambient was in 1596

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Statistics for ambient

Last Updated

2 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ambient.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for ambient


How to pronounce ambient (audio)

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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