am·​bush | \ˈam-ˌbu̇sh \
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 1) 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


plural ambushes

Definition of ambush (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a trap in which concealed persons lie in wait to attack by surprise

2 : the persons stationed in ambush also : their concealed position Terrorists lay in ambush.

3 : an attack especially from an ambush The ambush resulted in many casualties.

4 : 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


ambusher noun
ambushment \-​mənt \ noun

Synonyms for ambush

Synonyms: Verb

ambuscade, surprise (also surprize), waylay

Synonyms: Noun

ambuscade, ambushment, surprise (also surpize), trap

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Examples of ambush in a Sentence


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


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

Syrian state media said government forces seized the hill, but the Observatory said an al-Qaida linked faction fighting alongside rebels ambushed troops there, forcing them to retreat. Fox News, "Syrian government, rebels clash over recon base near Israel," 16 July 2018 When the rapper’s car, a black BMW i8, drove out of the gate, two masked men got out of the Journey and ambushed the rapper, struggling with him and then shooting him several times before taking a bag from the car. Brett Clarkson,, "XXXTentacion murder suspect was previously held in gun and drug cases," 29 June 2018 The warning came a day after gunmen believed to be affiliated with the Northeastern Cartel ambushed marines with the Mexican Navy in Nuevo Laredo. Caleb Downs, San Antonio Express-News, "Mexican governor warns citizens not to travel to U.S. via Reynosa-McAllen bridge," 29 Mar. 2018 The game and cheering seem to be going well for a moment, but then, on a signal from H, the warden calls out extra guards in riot gear who ambush the inmates. Jessica Macleish, Teen Vogue, ""Riverdale" Recap Season 3 Episode 2: Betty and Jughead Have a New Mystery to Solve," 18 Oct. 2018 Some members of the GOP have been ambushed by protesters angry with the Trump administration’s policies. Fox News, "FOX NEWS FIRST: SC governor hopes for 'Trump bump' in primary runoff; Democrats fear Leftist harass backlash," 26 June 2018 On March 25, marines had been ambushed three times by gunmen. Christopher Sherman,, "U.N. says people disappearing in northern Mexico city, possibly taken by government," 31 May 2018 The Lams, both 61, were ambushed Jan. 11 in a home invasion, then bound and shot to death execution-style. Alyson Ward, Houston Chronicle, "Family, friends crowd into funeral to remember slain Spring couple," 28 Jan. 2018 Later Wednesday, suspected Taliban insurgents overran a security outpost in the northern Badghis province and then ambushed reinforcements, killing a total of 10 soldiers, according to Jamshid Shahabi, a spokesman for the governor. Amir Shah, Fox News, "Attacks kill 19 Afghan forces after twin bombings in Kabul," 6 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Without more transparency, an open account of the allegations, and an opportunity for Messrs. Ghosn and Kelly to defend themselves, the Nissan ambush will stand as a black mark on Japanese business. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Ghosn Inquisition," 26 Nov. 2018 Noel Ramirez, 29, and Deputy Sheriff Taylor Lindsey, 25, were fatally shot in what appeared to be an ambush on April 19. Madeline Farber, Fox News, "Officers killed in the line of duty in 2018," 19 Sep. 2018 The Pentagon has said that the US team involved in the ambush killed 20 to 25 militants. Thomas Gibbons-neff And Helene Cooper,, "US identifies ISIS militants who led ambush in Niger that killed 4 US soldiers," 29 May 2018 Other parts of the video, stitched together from footage from drones and aircraft, show a group of seven US soldiers and four Nigerien troops who had escaped the ambush and fled into a swamp. Doug Criss, CNN, "5 things for May 17: White House, Niger ambush video, world population," 17 May 2018 While the team mischaracterized this mission, the report did not find a direct link between that and the ambush that killed the four U.S. soldiers. Idrees Ali, Anchorage Daily News, "Widespread failures led to deaths of 4 U.S. soldiers in Niger, Pentagon says," 10 May 2018 Before the ambush, the last Dallas officer to be fatally shot in the line of duty was Norm Smith in 2009. Tribune News Service,, "Man arrested after 2 police officers, store employee shot near Dallas Home Depot," 25 Apr. 2018 But the accumulation of resistance genes in the Sindh strain was hardly an ambush, according to a commentary by vaccine experts at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Emily Baumgaertner, New York Times, "‘We’re Out of Options’: Doctors Battle Drug-Resistant Typhoid Outbreak," 13 Apr. 2018 Four other men who were involved in the ambush had separately pleaded guilty as well. David Gambacorta,, "'Undercover Gangster' Michael Lockhart slammed with 30 to 60 years in prison," 22 Jan. 2018

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


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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ambush


Middle English embushen, from Anglo-French embuscher, from en in (from Latin in) + busche log, firewood


see ambush entry 1

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Statistics for ambush

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ambush

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

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More Definitions for ambush



English Language Learners Definition of ambush

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



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


am·​bush | \ˈam-ˌbu̇sh \
ambushed; ambushing

Kids Definition of ambush

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to attack by surprise from a hidden place



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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More from Merriam-Webster on ambush

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ambush

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ambush

Spanish Central: Translation of ambush

Nglish: Translation of ambush for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ambush for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about ambush

Comments on ambush

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