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 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
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 surprize), 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

Daenerys' horde of Dothraki ambushed the Lannister loot train and routed them in the previous episode. William Gurstelle, Popular Mechanics, "How to Storm a Castle," 11 Apr. 2019 Majima Everywhere made up for a similar lack of pizzazz in Yakuza Kiwami by causing its title character to ambush Kiryu in increasingly bizarre ways. Steven Strom, Ars Technica, "Review: Yakuza Kiwami 2 gets cleaned up for PS4," 28 Aug. 2018 Spirituality On March 15, a gunman ambushed two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, opening fire on the worshippers and killing 50. Asma Uddin, Teen Vogue, "On Muslim Women's Day, Women-Only Mosques Are About Much More Than Prayer," 27 Mar. 2019 All four were killed in Niger, when a joint patrol of American and Niger forces was ambushed by militants believed linked to the Islamic State group. Washington Post, "Pentagon to release details of Niger ambush, response," 10 May 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In the Zawol district of western Herat Province, the governor’s spokesman said 18 members of the Afghan Army and police were killed in an overnight ambush on Friday. Mujib Mashal, New York Times, "Taliban Announce Brief Cease-Fire, Offering Afghans Hope for Lull in War," 9 June 2018 The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday that the jury should not have heard a statement allegedly made by John Gurino, the man investigators believe pulled the trigger during an ambush on a quiet Fort Lauderdale street. Rafael Olmeda,, "New trial ordered for convicted killer in Gus Boulis murder," 7 June 2018 Houston police are asking for help finding three suspects who were involved in the 2016 ambush and fatal shooting of a man in southwest Houston. Samantha Ketterer, Houston Chronicle, "Police seek suspects involved in 2016 SW Houston shooting," 13 Feb. 2018 The three are facing the death penalty, with Broward State Attorney Mike Satz personally reminding the jury on June 6 that Tephford was ambushed and never had a chance to survive the ambush of Nov. 11, 2006. Rafael Olmeda,, "Defense lawyers seek mercy for three convicted in Broward deputy's murder," 29 June 2018 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

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

15 May 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

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