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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Some new screen Skills are silly but effective, like the Screen Savers Skill that turns the Echo Show into a koi pond or a fireplace, complete with ambient background noise to calm your nerves. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Echo Show 2018 review: Seeing is believing, and there’s a lot more to see," 8 Oct. 2018 The set detects ambient light and automatically adjusts to give you the greatest visibility: a pulse during the day, and a solid beam at night. James Lynch, Popular Mechanics, "Finally, Bike Lights You Don't Have to Remember to Turn Off," 12 Nov. 2018 The first captured carbon out of ambient air using a filter of base amines that would bind with more acidic CO2. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Company that sucks CO2 from air announces a new methane-producing plant," 4 Oct. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Others brought posters, notes or speakers, adding Ms. Franklin’s voice to the ambient honks and construction noise that filled 125th Street. Maya Sweedler And Adrienne Roberts, WSJ, "In Harlem and Detroit, Fans Pay Respect to Aretha Franklin," 16 Aug. 2018 For tires, this means every 10 degree change in ambient temperature will result in approximately 1 psi change in tire inflation pressure. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "Should You Really Put Nitrogen in Your Car Tires?," 19 Dec. 2018 Also, college dorms or group living situations can mean interrupted sleep from roommates, or ambient light and noise. Suzannah Weiss, Teen Vogue, "10 Sleep Tips for College Students," 7 Sep. 2018 It stores at least two hours of conversation between the pilot and co-pilot as well as any ambient noise, such as aural warnings produced by the plane. Ben Otto, WSJ, "Lion Air Crash: Divers Recover Jetliner’s Black Box," 1 Nov. 2018 The speaker is 50 percent louder than before, and the placement of the microphone has been adjusted, so the ambient noise will get drowned out in your conversation. Edward Barsamian, Vogue, "Is the New Apple Watch Worth It? A Sleeker, Better Design and Some Spiffy Brand New Features Say Yes," 19 Sep. 2018 In the summer, when the ambient air warms up, the lake water makes the pipes sweat. Steven Litt,, "Where clean water comes from: Garrett A. Morgan Water Treatment Plant open for tours May 12 (photos)," 6 May 2018 Even more annoying is how quickly the Sport transitions from active to ambient mode, with no way of setting a custom time from the watch itself, or the companion Wear OS app on my phone. Stefan Etienne, The Verge, "Fossil Sport Smartwatch review: new watch, same old tricks," 20 Nov. 2018 The extended battery life now lasts over 24 hours to further support an ambient mode, customized dials, rapid charging, music control, apps, and smartphone notifications. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, "PM Approved: Fossil Sport Touchscreen Smartwatch," 14 Nov. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ambient

Listen to Our Podcast about ambient

Dictionary Entries near ambient








Statistics for ambient

Last Updated

16 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ambient

The first known use of ambient was in 1596

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 shady place in a garden or forest

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!