Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for November 30, 2020 is:

ambient • AM-bee-unt  • adjective

1 : existing or present on all sides : encompassing

2 of electronic music : quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times


“These sophisticated spaces are stocked with elements to lure homeowners outdoors: water and fire features; … ambient lighting to set the mood.” — Rachel Hutton, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 21 Oct. 2020

“The fear might go away after a couple of scenes, or even right after a first entrance. ‘Sort of like in movies when all ambient noise fades away and everything goes out of focus but the path ahead,’ says Leontyne Mbele-Mbong.” — Lily Janiak, The San Francisco Chronicle, 22 Oct. 2020

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.

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