the character of a place or the feeling you have about it
Origin and usage
Ambience is a comparatively recent word, having first been used at the end of the 19th century. It is either formed from the adjective ambient and the suffix -ence, or is possibly a borrowing from the French word ‘ambiance’ meaning ‘surroundings’.
The noun ambience is mainly used these days to refer to the atmosphere of a place, especially one that is used for entertainment and relaxation. It is often preceded by adjectives such as ‘serene’, ‘relaxing’, ‘tranquil’, ‘cosy’ and ‘soothing’, which are as much to do with how a place makes you feel as what it looks like. Sometimes an ambience is described as ‘luxurious’, ‘magical’, ‘elegant’ or ‘stylish’, or as ‘homely’ or ‘rustic’, where the focus is more on the physical aspects. The adjectives that collocate with ambience are overwhelmingly positive: you have to go quite a long way down the list of adjective collocates before coming across words like ‘moody’ or ‘spooky’, and even these are probably being used positively.
“I always bring an orange scarf, not just so I can wear it or tuck it into my pocket, but also so I can throw it over a lamp in the hotel room. Orange is my favourite colour, and it gives a lovely, warm ambience.”
atmosphere, character, feeling, mood