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 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 How to pronounce ambushment (audio) \ 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

Fighters with the Arakan Army, the ethnic militia, ambushed a police station in an hour-long attack Saturday night that killed the nine officers and left another missing, according to spokesmen from the police and government. Jon Emont, WSJ, "Myanmar Ambush Kills Nine Police, Highlights Increasing Violence in Troubled State," 10 Mar. 2019 In 2010, the South Korean corvette Cheonan was ambushed and sunk by a North Korean midget sub firing a torpedo. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Iran Shows off Unusual Ship-Killing Torpedo/Missile Combination," 28 Feb. 2019 The two officers, Joseph A. Piagentini and Waverly M. Jones, were ambushed and fatally shot in the back outside a housing project in Harlem on May 21, 1971, a time when the city was rife with racial tension. New York Times, "Man Who Killed 2 Officers in ’71 Is Released From Prison," 27 Apr. 2018 In Christ’s time, it was known as the Bloody Pass because travelers would get ambushed and robbed. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: MLK’s final speech — delivered 50 years ago today — was full of timely and timeless teachings," 3 Apr. 2018 The worry tonight is that the Winterhawks will be looking ahead to Everett and get ambushed. Dylan Bumbarger,, "Game thread: Tri-City Americans at Portland Winterhawks," 6 Oct. 2017 The 22-year-old vigilante was ambushed and killed while on duty. Kainaz Amaria, Vox, "2018, explained in pictures by women and non-binary photographers," 21 Dec. 2018 Government forces have been battling the militants in the area for weeks since IS fighters ambushed Sweida in July. Philip Issa, The Seattle Times, "U.S.-backed group in last push to defeat Islamic State in northeast Syria," 11 Sep. 2018 The attack comes just a day after the terrorist group abducted more than 100 people after ambushing a convoy of buses. Benjamin Brown, Fox News, "Rockets fired from Taliban land near presidential palace in Kabul, US Embassy," 21 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In an ambush on Maung Gyi Taung, a village in Rakhine State, witnesses saw security forces rip infants and babies away from their mothers and throw them into the river to drown them. Jen Kirby, Vox, "New UN report documents evidence of mass atrocities in Myanmar against the Rohingya," 18 Sep. 2018 The dramatic new drone video, released May 17, 2018, of the ambush that killed four American soldiers shows U.S. forces desperately trying to escape, and fighting for their lives after friendly Nigerien forces mistook them for the enemy. Washington Post, "Niger drone video shows US forces fighting for their lives," 18 May 2018 For the first time, the video shows segments of the aftermath of the ambush taken by drones and aircraft overhead. Barbara Starr, CNN, "Pentagon video reveals new details of deadly Niger ambush," 16 May 2018 Portable nuclear reactors are also useful for conflicts such as Iraq or Afghanistan, where convoys laden with diesel fuel are at risk of ambush. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Critics Roast the Department of Defense’s Battlefield Nuclear Reactor," 25 Feb. 2019 But it’s raised questions over whether hasty decisions have backfired, such as an ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers., "The CIA Is Getting a Private-Sector Makeover," 19 Apr. 2018 After the ambush, as the tusks left behind by the poachers were locked up in storage at park headquarters, Mararv underwent three surgeries. Tristan Mcconnell, GQ, "The Bloody Toll of Congo's Elephant Wars," 16 Apr. 2018 Those two incidents preceded ambush attacks that targeted police officers — five slain in Dallas after Castile’s death, followed by three killed in Baton Rouge — at a moment of high racial tension nationwide. Mark Berman, Washington Post, "Baton Rouge police release video showing fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, plan to fire one officer," 30 Mar. 2018 The argument: Candidates would light up the base by highlighting Democrats’ ambush tactics. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, "The GOP Can’t Win for Losing," 20 Sep. 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

Verb and Noun

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

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Statistics for ambush

Last Updated

20 Mar 2019

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 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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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

What made you want to look up ambush? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reflect, repel, echo, or resound

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