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

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 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 The Black Liberation Army member had lured the officers, then 28 and 33, respectively, to an apartment building for an ambush attack, the New York Post reported. Greg Norman, Fox News, "Wife of freed NYC cop killer committed suicide just weeks after his release, coroner reveals," 22 June 2018 Colson, who was raised in Boothwyn and attended Chichester High School, and Krauss were responding to an ambush attack by Michael DeAndre Ford, who was shooting at the police station, at officers, and at cars and an ambulance. Robert Moran,, "Lawsuit: Maryland cop and Delco native was wrongfully killed by another cop," 12 June 2018 Two more American commandos then left that group on foot and headed back toward the ambush site to help in the search. New York Times, "In Niger Ambush, Rushing Into the Gunfire to Save the Fallen," 10 May 2018 The search was delayed, the report noted, after the U.S. received inaccurate reports that Johnson was being held prisoner in a village north of the ambush site. David S. Cloud,, "U.S. halts most combat missions in Africa in response to findings on deadly Niger ambush," 10 May 2018 Not even his years as a prosecutor could have prepared him for a tragedy that occurred in his family in 2015 — the ambush-style killings of three of his relatives. Jasper Scherer, San Antonio Express-News, "Incumbent, prosecutor tout experience in runoff for 187th state District Court nomination," 9 May 2018 The shooting happened almost two years after five police officers were killed in an ambush-style attack in downtown Dallas. Omar Villafranca, CBS News, "Dallas cop is 24th officer killed this year in the line of duty," 25 Apr. 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

6 Feb 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 \
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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