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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.
to give an atmosphere to:
The author had cleverly atmosphered the novel for added chills.
Contemporary Examples

“You are bringing someone into an atmosphere of intensity, and adding a lot of pressure to a first-time meeting,” says Berman.
How to Make It Through Thanksgiving Alive Lizzie Crocker November 25, 2014

But the atmosphere was casual, and editors were encouraged to circulate around the showroom after the show.
Tom Ford Presentation: London Fashion Week Fall Winter 2012 Isabel Wilkinson February 18, 2012

In the fashionable shopping district of Damascus the atmosphere is somber.
Gay Syrian Blogger a Hoax? Asne Seierstad June 5, 2011

She tells us what happens when the balance is ripped apart by the release of calcium and magnesium into the atmosphere.
Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco Chronicle Mining Catastrophes in West Virginia Chris Hedges, Joe Sacco June 13, 2012

A moment of silence for all those microbes who died in the oxygenation of Earth’s atmosphere.
Why Did It Take So Long For Complex Life To Evolve On Earth? Blame Oxygen. Matthew R. Francis November 1, 2014

Historical Examples

They absorbed her atmosphere and after each followed a period of mental asphyxy.
Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald

Her woman’s vanity blossomed deliciously in the atmosphere of a man’s love.
Viviette William J. Locke

It is not easy to disturb them, for the atmosphere protects them.
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler Samuel Butler

He had breathed into the atmosphere a subtle malaria, and George had caught the disease.
Life in London Edwin Hodder

We went out into the night, glad to exchange the atmosphere.
Glories of Spain Charles W. Wood

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

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.

atmosphere at·mos·phere (āt’mə-sfǐr’)

A gas surrounding a given body; a gaseous medium.

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 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.

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 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.)


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