January 18, 2012
ambulance (noun)
\AM-byuh-lunss\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: a vehicle that is used for transporting the injured or the sick
How do you use it?
"We heard the siren and saw the ambulance and watched the policemen carry her out of the house on a stretcher." (Barbara Robinson, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever)
Are you a word wiz?

When the term "ambulance" first came into use, it did not refer to a vehicle. What do you think it originally meant?

About 200 years ago, the French began setting up temporary, moveable hospitals close to battlefields to meet the needs of the wounded during war. They called such a medical facility a "hopital ambulant," meaning "traveling hospital." ("Ambulant" traces to the Latin verb "ambulare," meaning "to walk.") In time, the word "hospital" was dropped and the phrase was shortened to just "ambulance." That word eventually came to be used for both temporary hospitals and the vehicles that brought people to them. When English speakers borrowed "ambulance" in the early 1800s, they used it only for the vehicles.
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