Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
February 1st, 2015
Episode 94 of 903 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 01, 2015 is: ambient \AM-bee-unt\ adjective : existing or present on all sides : encompassing 2 of electronic music : quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times Examples: The chemicals must be kept at an ambient temperature of 70 degrees. "Liz Harris summons a wounded sound that suggests that ambient music, despite its intangibility, should be memorable." The Washington Post, December 28, 2014 Did you know? 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.