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[at-muh s-feer] /ˈæt məsˌfɪər/
the gaseous envelope surrounding the earth; the air.
this medium at a given place.
Astronomy. the gaseous envelope surrounding a heavenly body.
Chemistry. any gaseous envelope or medium.
a conventional unit of pressure, the normal pressure of the air at sea level, about 14.7 pounds per square inch (101.3 kilopascals), equal to the pressure exerted by a column of mercury 29.92 inches (760 mm) high.
Abbreviation: atm.
a surrounding or pervading mood, environment, or influence:
an atmosphere of impending war; a very tense atmosphere.
the dominant mood or emotional tone of a work of art, as of a play or novel:
the chilly atmosphere of a ghost story.
a distinctive quality, as of a place; character:
The old part of town has lots of atmosphere.
verb (used with object), atmosphered, atmosphering.
to give an atmosphere to:
The author had cleverly atmosphered the novel for added chills.
Origin of atmosphere
From the New Latin word atmosphaera, dating back to 1630-40. See atmo-, -sphere
Related forms
atmosphereless, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for atmosphere
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was sultry, and there was something in the atmosphere that at once threatened and soothed.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • Her woman's vanity blossomed deliciously in the atmosphere of a man's love.

    Viviette William J. Locke
  • He had breathed into the atmosphere a subtle malaria, and George had caught the disease.

    Life in London Edwin Hodder
  • They absorbed her atmosphere and after each followed a period of mental asphyxy.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • The campaigns of Napoleon, with their atmosphere of glory, illustrate this.

British Dictionary definitions for atmosphere


the gaseous envelope surrounding the earth or any other celestial body See also troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, ionosphere
the air or climate in a particular place: the atmosphere was thick with smoke
a general pervasive feeling or mood: an atmosphere of elation
the prevailing tone or mood of a novel, symphony, painting, or other work of art
a special mood or character associated with a place
any local gaseous environment or medium: an inert atmosphere
a unit of pressure; the pressure that will support a column of mercury 760 mm high at 0°C at sea level. 1 atmosphere is equivalent to 101 325 newtons per square metre or 14.72 pounds per square inch Abbreviation at, atm
Derived Forms
atmospheric, atmospherical, adjective
atmospherically, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for atmosphere

1630s, atmosphaera (modern form from 1670s), from Modern Latin atmosphaera, from atmo-, comb. form of Greek atmos "vapor, steam" + spharia "sphere" (see sphere). Greek atmos is from PIE *awet-mo-, from root *wet- "to blow, inspire, spiritually arouse" (see wood (adj.)). First used in English in connection with the Moon, which, as it turns out, doesn't have one.

It is observed in the solary eclipses, that there is sometimes a great trepidation about the body of the moon, from which we may likewise argue an atmosphaera, since we cannot well conceive what so probable a cause there should be of such an appearance as this, Quod radii solares a vaporibus lunam ambitntibus fuerint intercisi, that the sun-beams were broken and refracted by the vapours that encompassed the moon. [Rev. John Wilkins, "Discovery of New World or Discourse tending to prove that it probable there may be another World in the Moon," 1638]
Figurative sense of "surrounding influence, mental or moral environment" is c.1800.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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atmosphere in Medicine

atmosphere at·mos·phere (āt'mə-sfǐr')

  1. A gas surrounding a given body; a gaseous medium.

  2. Abbr. atm, atm. A unit of pressure equal to the air pressure at sea level, approximately equal to 1.01325 × 105 newtons per square meter.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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atmosphere in Science

  1. The mixture of gases surrounding the Earth or other celestial body, held in place by gravity. It forms distinct layers at different heights. The Earth's atmosphere consists, in ascending order, of the troposphere (containing 90% of the atmosphere's mass), the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere, and the exosphere. The atmosphere is composed primarily of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%) and plays a major role in the water cycle, the nitrogen cycle, and the carbon cycle. See more at exosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, thermosphere, troposphere.

  2. A unit of pressure equal to the pressure of the air at sea level, about 14.7 pounds per square inch, or 1,013 millibars.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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atmosphere in Culture

atmosphere definition

The blanket of gas on the surface of a planet or satellite.

Note: The atmosphere of the Earth is roughly eighty percent nitrogen and twenty percent oxygen, with traces of other gases. (See ionosphere, stratosphere, and troposphere.)
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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