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 Boston, Matthews ambushed Lopez in a narrow hallway, hitting him with team equipment as teammates continued their stretches nearby. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'We’ll keep you on the edge of your seats': Newcomers have brought game – and WWE antics – to the Bucks," 22 Nov. 2019 Just days earlier, cartel gunmen ambushed police in the state of Michoacan, killing 14 officers. Chicago Tribune, Twin Cities, "Other voices: Mexico’s ‘hugs not bullets’ approach to drug cartels has failed," 15 Nov. 2019 On Saturday, eight anti-government protesters were injured when their convoy was ambushed by government allies on the way to a demonstration in La Paz, opposition leaders said. New York Times, "Bolivian Leader Clings to Power as Police Join Protesters," 9 Nov. 2019 As the convoy approached each of the locations where the three vehicles were ambushed, several of the cars stopped. Rafael Carranza, azcentral, "Mexico ambush: Family passes scene of ambush on route to final funeral," 8 Nov. 2019 After an argument, Miller ambushed the two cops, shooting each of them in the head and face, prosecutors said. Monivette Cordeiro,, "Everett Miller jurors hear from cop who Baker Acted him weeks before killings: ‘Something was wrong’," 8 Nov. 2019 The Astros ambushed an assortment of early-count pitches in order to stay away from disadvantaged counts. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros drop Game 6 of World Series to Nationals," 30 Oct. 2019 When a kokanee salmon ventured up a narrow inlet, the bear ambushed the fish, an awesome spectacle of wildlife power. Tom Stienstra,, "Like in Alaska, salmon draw in bears on Tahoe creeks," 19 Oct. 2019 In that case, three men ambushed Marshall and shot him several times in the leg on East 86th Street, according to police reports. Adam Ferrise, cleveland, "Stray bullet struck man in head in Cleveland as gunman tried to shoot slain man’s mother, police say," 14 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In mid-October, 13 Mexican police officers were killed in an ambush in El Mencho's home state of Michoacán in western Mexico. Beth Warren,, "A ruthless Mexican drug lord’s empire is devastating families with its grip on small-town USA," 25 Nov. 2019 The militants have returned to the group’s guerrilla roots by embedding constellations of sleeper cells in both Iraq and Syria to routinely carry out ambushes, bombings and assassinations. John Walcott, Time, "ISIS Fighters Are Gaining Strength After Trump's Syria Pullout, U.S. Spies Say," 19 Nov. 2019 Nine members of a Mormon family with dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship were killed during a brutal ambush on their three sport utility vehicles. Chicago Tribune, Twin Cities, "Other voices: Mexico’s ‘hugs not bullets’ approach to drug cartels has failed," 15 Nov. 2019 A decade after Allen was wounded in the ambush, Allen's wife posted a message on her business Facebook account announcing the death of her husband. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Master Sgt. Mark Allen, soldier wounded while searching for Bowe Bergdahl, dies 10 years later," 15 Oct. 2019 Major teams have avoided Pakistan since that ambush, which killed eight people and injured several players. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Karachi’s wait goes on as Pakistan-Sri Lanka ODI called off," 27 Sep. 2019 The truth commission report, citing testimony of the sole survivor of the ambush, a rebel identified only as Martin, described what happened next. Andrew Selsky, The Seattle Times, "New push for justice after 4 Dutch journalists slain in 1982," 25 Mar. 2019 Andre had told his father about the gunmen, and the chance of another ambush couldn’t be ignored. New York Times, "After Mormon Family’s Terror in Mexico, a Message Emerges: No One Is Safe," 9 Nov. 2019 The first victims of the ambush to be laid to rest were carried in coffins handmade by relatives, tailored to the small bodies of those who are gone: 2-year-old Rogan, 11-year-old Trevor and their mother, Dawna Langford, were buried. CBS News, "Funerals for Americans killed in Mexico ambush draw hundreds," 7 Nov. 2019

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

27 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Ambush.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 5 December 2019.

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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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