Definition of ambush in US English:



  • A surprise attack by people lying in wait in a concealed position.

    ‘seven members of a patrol were killed in an ambush’
    ‘kidnappers waiting in ambush’
    • ‘Once trainees understand mountainous terrain and its effects on combat, the next step is to conduct small exercises involving patrolling, raids, and ambushes.’
    • ‘As chief commanding officer of his unit, Donovan led patrol and combat missions, and he recounts the suspense and sheer terror of night ambushes, surprise attacks and man-to-man warfare.’
    • ‘There have been frequent attacks on livestock too, with crocodiles waiting in ambush near the river bank.’
    • ‘In the gorge itself, small groups are deployed that use ambushes combined with effective fire delivery.’
    • ‘They may conduct reconnaissance by visual observation, by probing, by making ambushes, and by raiding tactical command posts, dumps, and other targets.’
    • ‘The Russian snipers were not prepared to hunt in the ruins and to lie in ambush for days on end.’
    • ‘Hit-and-run attacks, terrorist acts, raids and ambushes were cleverly combined with high-profile ideological activities.’
    • ‘But it is precisely the familiarity of the urban terrain to those who live there that enables them to use it to the advantages of ambushes, surprise attacks and rapid redeployment.’
    • ‘Successes by these Celtic troops against the Romans were usually gained in surprise attacks, in ambushes, and when overwhelming detached units by sheer numbers.’
    • ‘Classic tribal warfare emphasizes raids, ambushes and skirmishes - attacks followed by withdrawals, without holding ground.’
    • ‘The cats in the paintings are caught in different actions - they play, sleep, attack or lie in ambush.’
    • ‘Surprise attacks, ambushes and terrorist attacks are matched by military operations and policing.’
    • ‘He was shot during an ambush and killed because he wasn't wearing his body armor.’
    • ‘He could only see one metal wall, so he had no idea of how well it was guarded or if an ambush was waiting for him.’
    • ‘Insurgents often set up active ambushes to kill the greatest possible number of personnel.’
    • ‘On the other hand, the ambush is used throughout operations and is based on surprise.’
    • ‘Barracuda and dogtooth tuna are a common sight along these edges just cruising or lying in ambush.’
    • ‘In daylight, a lion could starve waiting for a perfect ambush.’
    • ‘Cities provide ample hiding places for the defender, and such battles often become an endless succession of ambushes for the attacker.’
    • ‘The occupants fled the car and were shot at the roadside, perhaps by a second group of attackers involved in the ambush.’
    surprise attack, trap, snare, pitfall, lure
    View synonyms


[with object]
  • 1Make a surprise attack on (someone) from a concealed position.

    ‘they were ambushed and taken prisoner by the enemy’
    • ‘I think they might have let me know in advance what they were planning instead of ambushing me, don't you?’
    • ‘Howard survived, just as he did in January when he was ambushed in a North Side car wash.’
    • ‘He was ambushed by two men firing shotguns as his cab pulled up outside.’
    • ‘It was as he walked across the car park at the front of the sports centre that he was ambushed and assaulted so viciously that he lost consciousness.’
    • ‘So while we were in the cart, some of my soldiers ambushed the officers and stole their uniforms.’
    • ‘Calida had barely made it to the bottom of the stairs when Esmerelda ambushed her.’
    • ‘Two Burnley youths who ambushed two men in a motorway under-pass have been sentenced to two years detention.’
    • ‘A masked robber, who was wielding a baseball bat, ambushed the first employee as he went outside to the bins.’
    • ‘A man was ambushed and mugged by three men lying in wait as he walked home from a football match.’
    • ‘They heard how he was ambushed as he drove from Keighley Leisure Centre by two car loads of heavily-armed and masked thugs.’
    • ‘The prosecution said that Vang ambushed some victims and chased one.’
    • ‘Kirsty revealed how she had spoken to Paul on his mobile phone only moments before he was ambushed.’
    • ‘A woman was ambushed by carjackers who threatened her with a gun and made off with her BMW convertible last week.’
    • ‘The Marines just happened to come upon them an hour after the soldiers were ambushed.’
    • ‘The police ambushed the dealer in a bogus arrest, stripped him of cash and drugs then sent him on his way.’
    • ‘Perhaps we have stumbled upon a party intent on ambushing us and raiding our lands.’
    • ‘A specialist team ambushed the men, who were in a red estate car, as they prepared to head into Glasgow from Kirkintilloch.’
    • ‘The old man followed her into the dark hall, where he was ambushed by several dozen rebels.’
    • ‘A young Ilkley landlord is recovering from a terrifying ordeal in which he was ambushed by two armed burglars.’
    • ‘While waging a gutsy campaign against liver disease, he was ambushed by stomach cancer and succumbed within a few months.’
    attack by surprise, trap, surprise, pounce on, lay a trap for, set an ambush for, lie in wait for, waylay, entrap, ensnare
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Confront (someone) suddenly and unexpectedly with unwelcome questions.
      ‘representatives were ambushed by camera crews’
      • ‘Inside South Camden Community School on Thursday night, when student Iain Wilson ambushed him as effectively as Chirac and Schröder had done hours earlier, the prime minister struggled to convince.’
      • ‘Ministers and MSPs still fear being ambushed by moral majoritarians.’
      • ‘Hewson, who had known nothing of the polling until confronted by O'Brien, was ambushed with it on Lateline.’
      • ‘Ignoring him while he pouted and deftly avoiding his attempts to ambush her, Elizabeth finished packing things away.’
      • ‘What we need to decide is whether it's okay to ambush people in the workplace.’
      • ‘This is to stop prosecutors being "ambushed" by evidence that they have no time to check.’
      • ‘Sam Newman asked Malthouse directly why Collingwood had ambushed Williams at the tribunal.’
      • ‘Mr Blair was first ambushed by dripping Evening Press chief reporter Mike Laycock during his visit to flood-hit York.’
      • ‘Although I consider myself informed about women's health, I was ambushed by this news.’
      • ‘Only at the last minute was he ambushed by the idiotic baying for "tax cuts" we were never going to be able to afford.’
      • ‘Twenty minutes later, the TV cameramen all but ambushed Camilla and Charles as they emerged from the Guildhall as man and wife.’
      • ‘It should have been an exercise in ritual humiliation - especially when he was ambushed on local radio by the brother of the murdered hostage.’
      • ‘He traveled the country giving talks and ambushing naive scientists in debates before huge, receptive audiences of churchgoers.’
      • ‘Earlier this month, more than 60 people ambushed the Rural Affairs Minister near Flamborough Head, to question him about why he wants to ban hunting.’


Middle English (in the sense ‘place troops in hiding in order to surprise an enemy’): from Old French embusche (noun), embuschier (verb), based on a late Latin word meaning ‘to place in a wood’; related to bush.