ambush

verb
am·​bush | \ ˈam-ˌbu̇sh How to pronounce ambush (audio) \
ambushed; ambushing; ambushes

Definition of ambush

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to attack by surprise from a hidden place : waylay Our troops ambushed the enemy units. … his caravan that season had been ambushed and shot at twice on the way down …— Rudyard Kipling
2 : to station in ambush (see ambush entry 2 sense 2) Mr and Mrs Fyne ambushed at their window—a most incredible occupation for people of their kind—saw with renewed anxiety a cab come to the door.— Joseph Conrad

intransitive verb

: to lie in wait : lurk

ambush

noun
plural ambushes

Definition of ambush (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a trap in which one or more concealed attackers lie in wait to attack by surprise soldiers caught in an ambush Suddenly a shout comes down the line: "Contact front!" It's an ambush, with gunmen on both sides of the road.— Lev Grossman … it is plain he must have been as stupid with weariness as myself, and looked as little where we were going, or we should not have walked into an ambush like blind men.— Robert Louis Stevenson
2 : the concealed position from which a surprise attack is made a group of soldiers lying in ambush … tanks alone are vulnerable to opposing infantry with antitank weapons, particularly at night when the infantry can more easily wait in ambush or approach unseen.— Neil Sheehan also : an individual or group concealed for a surprise attack All was then dead silence; for, loquacious as he was on other occasions, Captain Dalgetty knew well the necessity of an ambush keeping itself under covert. — Robert Burns
3 : the act of approaching or confronting someone with something unexpected often used before another noun ambush journalism… did not return calls or e-mails and was hostile when a television crew conducted an ambush interview several years ago.— Neely Tucker

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Other Words from ambush

Verb

ambusher noun
ambushment \ ˈam-​ˌbu̇sh-​mənt How to pronounce ambush (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for ambush

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of ambush in a Sentence

Verb We have reports of enemy soldiers ambushing civilians on this road. the king's enemies planned to ambush the royal coach on the way to Paris and capture the king Noun Many soldiers were killed in the ambush. The soldiers were lying in ambush, waiting for the enemy to approach. a snake waiting in ambush for its next meal
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Some ambush invading microbes directly, snarfing them down or bathing them with deadly toxins, while others blow up infected cells—tactics reminiscent of guerrilla warfare. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, "In Praise of Anything but Antibodies," 22 Apr. 2021 When George Washington crossed the Delaware River to ambush enemy soldiers in the Battle of Trenton, nobody was on hand to portray his masterful tactical maneuver. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, "This Groundbreaking Exhibit Of Roy Lichtenstein’s Early Paintings Shows The Melodrama That Made His Art Pop," 15 Apr. 2021 And old timers in sunken field blinds wait to ambush them every January with trusty Ithaca Mag-10s or Remington SP-10s by their sides. Joe Genzel, Outdoor Life, "The 10-Gauge vs. 12-Gauge Shootout: The 10 Is Still a Long-Range Hammer on Turkeys and Geese," 18 Mar. 2021 His second choice is to bolt out the front door and ambush the bird feeder. Anchorage Daily News, "Forget semantics, Alaska’s woods and mountains beckon at this time of year," 14 Mar. 2021 Nevada's mountain lions often use the strategy of waiting patiently to ambush their prey. David Aaro, Fox News, "Photo of Nevada mountain lion sparks "Where's Waldo?" moment," 15 Jan. 2021 Unfortunately for all involved, Featherington's bookies somehow uncover the plan and, to teach him a very extreme lesson, ambush him with a bottle of laudanum, a form of opium with potentially fatal effects. Andrea Park, Marie Claire, "That Whirlwind 'Bridgerton' Ending, Explained," 30 Dec. 2020 Inaros charmed his way out of execution in season 4, only to return in the season's final episode to ambush and murder Klaes Ashford, who had previously spared him. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "The Expanse S5 review: The show is bigger, bolder, and better than ever," 11 Dec. 2020 Recent analyses from archaeological sites in Olduvai Gorge, in East Africa’s Great Rift Valley, established the capability of humans living nearly 2 million years ago to ambush wildebeest-size prey using simple wooden spears at close range. Outdoor Life, "Has Our Reliance on Technology Made Modern Hunters Less Capable Than Our Ancestors?," 26 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Nobunaga was at the Honnō-ji temple at the time of the ambush. Kat Moon, Time, "The True Story of Yasuke, the Legendary Black Samurai Behind Netflix’s New Anime Series," 30 Apr. 2021 In 2019, 14 state police officers were killed in an apparent cartel ambush in Aguililla. Patrick J. Mcdonnell, Los Angeles Times, "‘We are trapped here.’ A Mexican town isolated by cartel terror," 23 Apr. 2021 Three women and six children were killed in an ambush in northern Mexico. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Abbott demands Biden add cartels to terrorist list, but didn’t squawk when Trump decided not to," 17 Apr. 2021 Carrillo, according to court documents, allegedly posted about his desire to inflame protests happening near the Oakland courthouse ahead of his ambush of the security guard. Washington Post, "Michigan kidnapping plot, like so many other extremist crimes, foreshadowed on social media," 8 Oct. 2020 The assailants struck the Government Girls Secondary School in Zamfara state in a predawn ambush, teachers and residents said, waking up the town as shots rang out. BostonGlobe.com, "Nigeria confronts second mass kidnapping of schoolchildren in nine days after 317 girls vanish," 26 Feb. 2021 But the convoy ran straight into an ambush set by the insurgents: The occupants of several vehicles are still unaccounted for. Tim Lister And Vasco Cotovio, CNN, "The brutal attacks in Mozambique are a 'game-changer' and imperil a whole country's financial future," 30 Mar. 2021 The fact that the March 22 ambush’s victims included an Olympic medalist likely factored into the severity of the reprisal meted out. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "Remembering the Khatyn Massacre," 22 Mar. 2021 Moments later he was shot, in what police have called an ambush. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "‘They deserve justice’: Birmingham families seek answers as Jefferson County ends 2020 with 74 unsolved murders," 31 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ambush.' 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 ambush

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ambush

Verb

Middle English enbuschen "to place in hiding in order to attack by surprise, to hide (oneself) in order to attack by surprise," borrowed from Anglo-French embuscher "to place (in the woods) in order to attack by surprise, conceal, lie in wait to attack by surprise" (also continental Old French [Normandy & Picardy] embuschier, Picard dialect embusquier), from em- em- + -buscher, verbal derivative of Picard bus, busc "forest, grove," going back to Old Low Franconian *būska-, going back to Germanic, ablaut variant of *buska- "bush, thicket" — more at bush entry 1

Note: Forms with initial am- instead of em-, which first appear in the noun in the sixteenth century and the verb in the seventeenth century, are of uncertain origin. Given the earlier use in nouns, their appearance may be a by-product of shift of stress to the initial syllable. The suggestion in the Oxford English Dictionary, third edition, that the change is due to association with ambage, does not seem very likely. — The meaning "forest, grove" attached to *būska-, whence the Picard masculine noun bus, busc, receded early before a Gallo-Romance derivative *buska, a re-formation of the Germanic etymon as a neuter collective plural noun, taken as feminine, whence Old French busche "piece of firewood," French bûche. This new formation, also with results in Occitan and Upper Italian dialects, represents a sense shift from "bush, thicket" to "wood collected for a fire" to "split piece of wood, splinter." For a detailed discussion of Romance and Germanic outcomes of būska- see Johannes Hubschmied, "Romanisch-germanische Wortprobleme I. Zur Geschichte von bois, bûche (mit Berücksichtigung der Ortsnamen)," Vox Romanica, Band 29 (1970), pp. 114-16. Within the framework of Germanic and Indo-European ablaut patterns as now understood, a lengthened grade *būska- is questionable, and one might have to appeal to variation of expressive vocabulary within Germanic. Hubschmid, however, works within J. Pokorny's framework, where an Indo-European root with a very general meaning and form, *beu-, *bheu-, *bheuə- "to swell," is subject to an indefinite number of ablaut variants and root extensions.

Noun

earlier enbusshe, borrowed from Middle French embusche, embusque, noun derivative of embuschier "to place (in the woods) in order to attack by surprise" — more at ambush entry 1

Note: For the initial am- in place of em- see note at ambush entry 1

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Learn More about ambush

Time Traveler for ambush

Time Traveler

The first known use of ambush was in the 14th century

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Statistics for ambush

Last Updated

25 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ambush.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ambush. Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for ambush

ambush

verb

English Language Learners Definition of ambush

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to attack (someone or something) by surprise from a hidden place

ambush

noun

English Language Learners Definition of ambush (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of hiding, waiting for others to appear, and then suddenly attacking them : a surprise attack
: a hidden place from which a surprise attack can be made

ambush

verb
am·​bush | \ ˈam-ˌbu̇sh How to pronounce ambush (audio) \
ambushed; ambushing

Kids Definition of ambush

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to attack by surprise from a hidden place

ambush

noun

Kids Definition of ambush (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a hidden place from which a surprise attack can be made
2 : a surprise attack made from a hidden place

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Comments on ambush

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