[ at-muhs-feer ]
See synonyms for atmosphere on
  1. the gaseous envelope surrounding the earth; the air: a weather balloon rising high into the atmosphere.

  2. this medium at a given place: the warm, dry atmosphere of the Joshua tree's natural environment.

  1. Astronomy. the gaseous envelope surrounding a heavenly body: The white ovals seen in Saturn's atmosphere could be intense storms.

  2. Chemistry. any gaseous envelope or medium: The ether was treated with a sulfate in an atmosphere of coal gas.

  3. 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 millimeters) high. Abbreviation: atm.

  4. a surrounding or pervading mood, environment, or influence: an atmosphere of impending war;a very tense atmosphere.

  5. the dominant mood or emotional tone of a work of art, as of a play or novel: the chilly atmosphere of a ghost story.

  6. a distinctive quality, as of a place; character: The old part of town has lots of atmosphere.

  7. Also at·mos·pheres, at·mos [at-mohs] /ˈæt moʊs/ .Radio, Television, Movies. the background sound that is present, or would naturally be present, in the location where a recording or broadcast is made, often recorded as a separate track and then mixed; ambient sound.

verb (used with object),at·mos·phered, at·mos·pher·ing.
  1. 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

word story For atmosphere

Atmosphere has a very simple etymology: it comes from New Latin atmosphaera, a compound noun composed of Greek atmós “vapor, steam, odor” and sphaîra “ball, globe, terrestrial or planetary sphere, eyeball, boxing gloves.” Neither Greek noun has a reliable etymology.
The earliest sense, from the mid-1600s, is found in early scientific writing, referring to “the gaseous envelope surrounding a heavenly body.” Figurative senses developed later: first “a surrounding or pervading mood,” referring to mental or psychological environment, in the late 1700s, and then, “a distinctive quality, as of a place; character,” referring to physical environment.

Other words from atmosphere

  • at·mos·phere·less, adjective

Words Nearby atmosphere Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use atmosphere in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for atmosphere


/ (ˈætməsˌfɪə) /

  1. the gaseous envelope surrounding the earth or any other celestial body: See also troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, ionosphere

  2. the air or climate in a particular place: the atmosphere was thick with smoke

  1. a general pervasive feeling or mood: an atmosphere of elation

  2. the prevailing tone or mood of a novel, symphony, painting, or other work of art

  3. a special mood or character associated with a place

  4. any local gaseous environment or medium: an inert atmosphere

  5. 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 of atmosphere

  • atmospheric or 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

Scientific definitions for atmosphere


[ ătmə-sfîr′ ]

  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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for atmosphere


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

Notes for atmosphere

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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.