Around and Around: Ambi

Make the rounds with these lists of prefixes that all have to do with things that go around: circum, ambi, peri
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definitions & notes only words
  1. ambidextrous
    equally skillful with each hand
    The shoes are one-size-fits-all and ambidextrous, with no difference between left and right.Washington Post (Apr 30, 2015)
    ambi (on both sides, around) + dexter (right-handed) + ous (suffix forming adjectives)
    While modern use of the adjective does not differentiate between left and right or hands and feet, the original meaning shows a preference for the right hand. An ambidextrous person was described as being right-handed on both sides, while a clumsy person was described as ambilevous, or left-handed on both sides. Ambidexterity is usually seen as a useful skill, but it can also be connected with trickery.
  2. ambiguous
    open to two or more interpretations
    What emerges from these details isn’t a perfectly lucid photograph but an ambiguous watercolor.The New Yorker (Jun 12, 2015)
    ambi (on both sides, around) + agere (to drive, lead, act) + ous (suffix forming adjectives)
    Art that is open to two or more interpretations can sometimes be seen as "having no intrinsic or objective meaning." In this perspective, the artist's intention does not matter, and the burden is on the viewer to make sense of the images. For those who cannot, "ambiguous" is the opposite of "lucid" ("easily understandable; having a clear mind").
  3. ambivalent
    uncertain or unable to decide about what course to follow
    Those who are ambivalent might say “sure” or “fine” or “okay.”Washington Post (Jun 11, 2015)
    ambi (on both sides, around) + valentia (strength)
    The definition does not sound like it connects to strength. That is because the word was coined by a psychologist to describe conflicting feelings that are equally strong, which would cause uncertainty and an inability to make a decision.
  4. ambiance
    the atmosphere of an environment
    In Scotland, one town decided to improve the ambiance in a popular shopping district by switching the lighting to blue.Forbes (Oct 22, 2014)
    ambi (on both sides, around) + ire (to go) + ance (suffix forming abstract nouns)
    "Ambiance" is a fancy way of describing the mood created by an environment. When spelled as "ambience," it becomes a more artistic way of describing the mood created by the arrangement of colors, shapes, sounds, or anything else that can affect the senses.
  5. ambient
    completely enveloping
    It will come as no surprise that city birds wake up earlier than country ones, because ambient light and noise wake them up before sunrise.New York Times (Aug 4, 2015)
    ambi (on both sides, around) + ire (to go) + ent (suffix forming adjectives)
    Some ambient noise can make people wish they could fly away, but ambient music is "intended to serve as an unobtrusive accompaniment to other activities (as in a public place) and characterized especially by quiet and repetitive instrumental melodies." While some ambient lighting can be blinding, in horror films, it is often low key, in order to highlight contours and shadows.
  6. amble
    walk leisurely
    And you and the giraffes will play this game for as long as they decide to keep hanging out before ambling back into the woods.Forbes (Jul 2, 2015)
    ambi (on both sides, around) + ulare (to go)
    The word can be used for both animals and people nowadays, but before the 16th century, it referred only to the movement of horses or people on horseback. The example sentence uses the word as a verb, but one can also go on an amble (usually in a public place).
  7. ambulatory
    relating to or adapted for walking
    Walkways double as spaces for ambulatory meetings, held on the go so they are short and decisive.New York Times (Mar 1, 2014)
    ambi (on both sides, around) + ulare (to go) + ory (suffix forming adjectives)
    If the walkways were covered, they could be called ambulatories. And if these ambulatories included ramps, then the ambulatory meetings could be attended by those who are less ambulatory ("able to walk about"). The meetings could also be considered ambulatory ("shifting, not permanent") if the methods and places for conducting them keep changing.
  8. ambit
    an area in which something operates or has power or control
    He is dependent on matters beyond his control, and a will beyond his narrow ambit.Yeats-Brown, Francis
    ambi (on both sides, around) + ire (to go)
    The noun originated as a reference to the literal space around a building, district, or town. Nowadays, while it is most often used in connection to law, it can also broadly refer to any type of physical or intellectual area within which something or someone has control.
  9. ambition
    a strong drive for success
    “We have an education problem: ambition is not taught in school.”The Guardian (Dec 6, 2015)
    ambi (on both sides, around) + ire (to go) + ion (suffix forming nouns)
    The example sentence suggests that ambition should be taught in school. This might not be a good idea, especially if you look at the origin of the word. First used in the 14th century, "ambition" was considered a prideful and greedy quality, since it was connected to people who went around trying to be popular, gain favors, and get the votes needed for office.
  10. ambassador
    an informal representative
    Each chef is required to participate in three events across the state during their year as ambassador.Washington Times (Sep 28, 2015)
    ambi (on both sides, around) + agere (to drive, lead, act) + or (suffix forming nouns)
    The example sentence connects to the original meaning of the word, which describes an ambassador as someone who goes around as a messenger or servant. Within embassies, there are ambassadors whose international negotiations would also require them to travel, but while doing so, they would be treated as diplomats of the highest rank.

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