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Ambience or Ambiance—Which Is Correct?

  • Ambience is the character and mood of a place.
  • Ambiance is an alternative spelling of the same word.

In online articles, you will find ambiance—spelled with an -ance—as in this example from the Kansas City Star: “Despite its mysterious ambiance, the basement is designed to be functional.” In other articles, like this one from The Post, writers spell it ambience—with an -ence. Which one is correct—ambiance or ambience?

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Ambience definition

Ambience comes from a French word meaning “surrounding.” Ambience is the mood or atmosphere of a certain environment. Many factors contribute to ambience. For example, in a restaurant the choice of music, the color of the paint, the volume of conversation, and the smells of cooking food may lend to a pleasant or unpleasant ambience. But what about ambiance? Is it a misspelling of ambience?

Ambiance is not a misspelling; it is an alternative spelling. You can use it in the same way as ambience. Which one is most popular?

Ambiance vs. ambience: Usage and examples

Ambience has been in the English language longer than ambiance. Perhaps that is why ambience is the more common spelling. Though both spellings are correct, some people feel more comfortable using the more popular one. How do you feel? Considering some examples may help you make up your mind:

“The ‘dictators’ of the animal kingdom are those who live in an ambience of plenty. The anarchists, as always, are the ‘gentlemen of the road’.”
Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines

“No doubt, the officials scrupulously planned the airport’s location to prevent the incessant air traffic and roaring engines from visibly or audibly polluting the ambience of their beloved capital, and apparently, they succeeded.”
E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

“She slipped from beneath the blankets, her bare feet hitting the cold floor. “What were you playing?” she asked reverently, not wanting to disturb the ambiance that remained in the room.”
Lorraine Heath, Texas Splendor

Ambiance and ambience are both correct spellings of the same word. Ambience is the more popular of the two, but ambiance is acceptable. Will you write about the character or mood of a place with the French spelling? Will you opt for the more popular ambience?

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