Ambient: relating to the immediate surroundings of something. "the liquid is stored at below ambient temperature".

Cited from Oxford Dictionaries.

As far as I know 'ambient' is an adjective that refers to the surrounding, e.g. ambient lighting of the room gave rise to a gloomy mood ; ambient temperature/sounds etc. So what does ambient mean in the dictionary's example sentence?

  • Hi @Specter. I've edited for formatting and added a link. You can roll back if you don't like it.
    – Pam
    Nov 13, 2018 at 9:54
  • @AndyT the sentence is within the yellow citation box right after the meaning.
    – user323059
    Nov 13, 2018 at 11:31
  • @Pam much appreciated, I tried but couldn't form paragraphs :).
    – user323059
    Nov 13, 2018 at 11:32
  • @Specter, it's a double carriage return. Actually, you've probably learned quite a bit from the edits you've seen...!
    – Pam
    Nov 13, 2018 at 11:53

3 Answers 3


Maybe it's clearer if we read "is stored" as meaning "should be stored", as in "is [normally] stored [if treated correctly]".

So here 'ambient' really means 'room temperature', which in a scientific context normally means somewhere between 20 to 25°C. Or, if the context is an environment where the 'normal' (ambient) temperature is something else, this is saying that the liquid should be stored below that.

(Of course, an obvious way that you can store something below room temperature is to put it in a refrigerator so that it adopts the (cold) temperature of that place, which is its ambient temperature...!)

  • 1
    So 'ambient' here is used in a sense subjective to humans in the context? So hypothetically speaking , if I were to be placed in a freezer the 'ambient temeprature' would be cold ?
    – user323059
    Nov 13, 2018 at 17:13
  • Exactly! The dictionary example you quoted is, in my opinion, quite a bad one, because the term ambient is intrinsically relative to its context...but there was no context given in the example. However, as you've correctly guessed, the context is so often human that you can generally presume 'ambient' without any other context defaults to that. And yes, for example, as a quick Google search revealed: "the annual average ambient temperature in the Arctic region is close to 0°C".
    – Tim
    Nov 13, 2018 at 17:49
  • 1
    I had the same thought when I first saw the sentence. These sample sentences are proving to be more often , misleading than benefical in helping me comprhened the meanings of the words. Thanks for helping me disslove the skepticism ! :)
    – user323059
    Nov 13, 2018 at 18:09

Ambient literally means ‘what is around’.

Etymology - Ambient:

late 16th century: from French ambiant or Latin ambient- ‘going around,’ from ambire.


‘Below ambient temperature’ means ‘below the temperature of ‘what is around’ - ie - below room temperature. If the item is ‘in a room’.

If you put something in a fridge, it will take on the surrounding temperature ‘ambient temperature’ of the fridge.

Ambient is ‘what is around’.


In the sentence "the liquid is stored at below ambient temperature", ambient takes its normal meaning: the surroundings.

If the temperature in my house is 20oC, and I store some milk in my fridge at 4oC, then the "ambient" temperature can be understood as the room temperature, rather than the temperature within the fridge, and hence the milk is stored at below ambient temperature.

Similarly if the temperature outside varies between -5oC and +35oC, with a refrigerated warehouse kept at -20oC, then anything stored within that warehouse is stored at below ambient temperature.

  • so ambient can mean 'normal' (from an anthropic prespective) as well as 'surrounding' ?
    – user323059
    Nov 13, 2018 at 17:10
  • 2
    Don’t think about “anthropic perspective” think “what would be the normal steady-state temperature without any interference”
    – Jim
    Nov 14, 2018 at 0:07

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