am·​bi·​ent | \ ˈam-bē-ənt How to pronounce ambient (audio) \

Definition of ambient

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : existing or present on all sides : encompassing the ambient air temperature ambient light ambient sound
2 : of or relating to ambient music (see ambient entry 2 sense 2)



Definition of ambient (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an encompassing atmosphere : environment
2 : music intended to serve as an unobtrusive accompaniment to other activities (as in a public place) and characterized especially by quiet and repetitive instrumental melodies

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Biologists explore the effects of ambient light on plants; acoustics experts try to control ambient sound; and meteorologists study ambient pressure, air, or temperature. All this can make ambient seem like a technical term, but when it first saw light of day, that all-encompassing adjective was as likely to be used in poetry as in science. John Milton used it in Paradise Lost, and Alexander Pope wrote of a mountain "whose tow'ring summit ambient clouds conceal'd." Both poets and scientists who use ambient owe a debt to the Latin verb ambire, meaning "to go around," the grandparent of our English word.

Examples of ambient in a Sentence

Adjective Keep the chemicals at an ambient temperature of 70°F. the bright ambient light of the room People shopped as ambient music played in the background. Noun observing how the survival techniques of primates vary with the ambient
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Profiles will be available worldwide, while ambient-modes cards will first be available only in the U.S. Todd Spangler, Variety, 11 Oct. 2021 Verily recently published a study showing how different streams of smartphone data — like ambient audio level, location, and movement — might be used to measure symptoms of depression. Stat Staff, STAT, 5 Oct. 2021 Hardly a fledgling genre, R&B en Español’s mainstream popularity can be chalked up to its dark sub-base and ambient instrumentation. Jennifer Mota,, 2 Oct. 2021 Charting a path through the genres of mystery, Hollywood novel, and dystopian fiction, Kleeman ably balances entertainment with an ambient sense of disaster. The New Yorker, 27 Sep. 2021 First is the Premium, which starts at that $102,310 base ($119,110 for the EQS 580 4MATIC) and has a laundry list of special features, including a 64-color ambient lighting, a Burmester 3-D Sound System and a hearty driver assistance suite. Bryan Hood, Robb Report, 22 Sep. 2021 Global assessments of ambient air pollution alone suggest hundreds of millions of healthy years of life lost, with low and middle-income countries the hardest hit. Rachel Ramirez, CNN, 22 Sep. 2021 The compressor expels the fluidic air and creates a vortex that in turn sucks in and pushes out ambient air, generating thrust. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 21 Sep. 2021 Floor lamps are a good option that offer ambient and task lighting without taking up too much room, Maloney said., 19 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The smart display uses its Soli radar technology, microphones and the ambient and temperature sensors to measure your quality of sleep. Janhoi Mcgregor, Forbes, 4 May 2021 Electronic hearing protection is also designed to amplify low-level ambient sounds for better communication on the range. The Editors, Field & Stream, 11 Nov. 2020 For example, if your children are home and there is ambient noise during a videoconference call, most everyone will understand these days and take it in stride. Liz Bentley, Marie Claire, 16 Apr. 2020 Young kids need to be able to turn off the exterior ambient noise and just find calm, Ketchum said. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, 11 Apr. 2020 At Level C, a face mask connected to a filter strains hazardous particles out of the ambient air instead of totally replacing the supply with an SCBA or rebreather. Rob Verger, Popular Science, 6 Apr. 2020 If the ambient air is cooler, the material will solidify, insulating the wearer on the inside but matching the surrounding temperature on the outside. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 5 Mar. 2020 Direct air capture extracts carbon dioxide from power plants’ flue gas or the ambient air, storing it underground or depositing it as minerals in building materials. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, 25 Sep. 2019 When the ambient air exceeds the normal body temperature of 37°C (98.6°F), the only way to keep from overheating is by evaporative cooling—a.k.a. Aryn Baker, Time, 12 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ambient.' 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 ambient


1572, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1892, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ambient


borrowed from Latin ambient-, ambiens, present participle of ambiō, ambīre "to visit in rotation, solicit (political support), seek to obtain, surround, encircle, embrace," from amb- "around, on both sides" + eō, īre "to go"; amb- going back to Indo-European *h2m̥bhi "around," whence also Germanic *umbi- (whence Old English ymbe "around, about," Old Frisian umbe, Old Saxon & Old High German umbi "around, about, concerning," Old Icelandic um, umb "around, about, beyond, over"), Gaulish ambi- "around (in names)," Old Irish imb, imm "around, about," Welsh & Breton am, Greek amphí "about, on both sides of," Armenian amb- (in ambołǰ "whole, intact"), Old Avestan aibī "for," Old Persian abiy "to, toward," Sanskrit abhí — more at issue entry 1

Note: The Latin prefix amb- is peculiar in that the expected linking vowel -i- never occurs; before consonants it syncopates, with consequent assimilation: -b- drops, and -m- becomes -n- before non-labial sounds (see amplexus, amputate, ancilla, anfractuous). Indo-European *h2m̥bhi may have developed from *h2n̥t-bhi, a frozen instrumental plural form of the noun *h2ent- "front, face" (see ante-). The same noun figures in *h2(e)nt-bhoh1 "both" (see ambi-).


derivative of ambient entry 1

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The first known use of ambient was in 1572

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Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ambient.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for ambient



English Language Learners Definition of ambient

: surrounding on all sides
: quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times


am·​bi·​ent | \ ˈam-bē-ənt How to pronounce ambient (audio) \

Medical Definition of ambient

: surrounding on all sides the ambient environment ambient air pollution

More from Merriam-Webster on ambient

Nglish: Translation of ambient for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ambient for Arabic Speakers


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