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


plural ambushes

Definition of ambush (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a trap in which one or more concealed persons 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 of a person or group stationed to make a surprise attack 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 : the person or group so stationed 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 nounambush 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 \ ˈam-​ˌbu̇sh-​mənt How to pronounce ambushment (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 In Tongo Tongo, Niger, in 2017, four Green Berets were ambushed and killed by an Islamic State affiliate. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "US Africa Command misses opportunity to show value amid canceled exercises," 19 Mar. 2020 Martin was visiting his sister at the apartment around 7 p.m. Friday when he was ambushed in the parking lot, according to family members and the sheriff's office. Julian Gill, Houston Chronicle, "Man arrested in deadly shooting at Haverstock Hill Apartments," 23 Feb. 2020 Or, just last year, al-Shabaab, a terrorist group, diverted water from the Jubba river in Somalia, causing a flood that forced opposing forces to move to higher ground, where they were ambushed. The Economist, "Whatever happened to the water wars?," 18 Nov. 2019 According to Mexican authorities, three families were traveling in three separate vehicles from their homes in La Mora in Sonora to Colonia LeBaron in Chihuahua when they were ambushed in two separate attacks by gunmen hidden in the mountains. Editors, USA TODAY, "LSU-Alabama, 'Sesame Street' turns 50, Remembrance Day: 5 things to know this weekend," 9 Nov. 2019 This week 13 state policeman were ambushed and killed in the western state of Michoacan. San Diego Union-Tribune, "AP Explains: A look at Mexico’s security strategy," 18 Oct. 2019 State officials said the police were enforcing a judicial order in El Aguaje when they were ambushed. Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, "14 police officers killed in an ambush in Mexico, testing president’s security strategy," 14 Oct. 2019 Moe and Skunk step up their responsibility by taking on a drug deal on their own — one that goes awry when they are ambushed by crooked cops. Hau Chu, Twin Cities, "‘Killerman’ is a crime thriller that starts with cliches and goes bloody bonkers," 1 Sep. 2019 To that end, Team Maeve has claimed its first Dolores, as Clementine comes back from the dead to ambush Musashi-bot in Jakarta. Scott Tobias, New York Times, "‘Westworld’ Season 3, Episode 7 Recap: The Regressive Path," 26 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Police chief calls second shooting an ambush The second shooting, around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, appeared to be an attempt to ambush police officers, Taylor said. Kaitlin Lange, Indianapolis Star, "Fatal shootings rekindle long-simmering tension between IMPD and black residents," 7 May 2020 That ambush was just one of several claimed by ISIS in April; two others took place in countries whose governments had never before officially recorded an attack. Joseph Hincks, Time, "With the World Busy Fighting COVID-19, Could ISIS Mount a Resurgence?," 29 Apr. 2020 Those new restrictions were imposed after an ambush in October that year near the border with Mali left four American soldiers dead. Eric Schmitt,, "US military cutting medevac flights for troops in West Africa," 18 Apr. 2020 This is a place where a lot of hardball negotiators might advise something akin to an ambush. Marshall Bright,, "How To Negotiate With Your Boss Via Zoom," 17 Apr. 2020 That ambush unfolded two days after a white officer shot and killed a black man in Louisiana's capital. Vandana Rambaran, Fox News, "Baton Rouge police shooting suspect stood over dead officer and kept firing, investigators say," 28 Apr. 2020 In late March, nearly 50 soldiers were killed in a Boko Haram ambush in the state of Yobe—not far from where the students from Chibok are now living. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 22 Apr. 2020 The large, remote stretches in which US Special Forces operate are inherently dangerous because of their inaccessibility and conduciveness to ambushes. Eric Schmitt,, "US military cutting medevac flights for troops in West Africa," 18 Apr. 2020 Chad's army launched the operation March 31 after Boko Haram killed nearly 100 troops in an ambush a few days earlier. Washington Post, "World Digest: April 9, 2020," 9 Apr. 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


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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ambush

Verb and Noun

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

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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

14 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ambush.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for ambush


How to pronounce ambush (audio)

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 How to pronounce ambush (audio) \
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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