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An ambulance is a vehicle for transportation of sick or injured people to, from or between places of treatment for an illness or injury,[1] and in some instances will also provide out of hospital medical care to the patient. The word is often associated with road going emergency ambulances which form part of an emergency medical service, administering emergency care to those with acute medical problems.

The term ambulance does however extend to a wider range of vehicles other than those with flashing warning lights and sirens, including a large number of non-urgent ambulances which are for transport of patients without an urgent acute condition and a wide range of vehicles including trucks, vans, bicycles, motorbikes, station wagons, buses, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, boats, and even hospital ships.


The term ambulance comes from the Latin word ambulare, meaning to walk or move about[2] which is a reference to early medical care where patients were moved by lifting or wheeling. The word originally meant a moving hospital, which follows an army in its movements.[3] During the American Civil War vehicles for conveying the wounded off the field of battle were called ambulance wagons.[4] Field hospitals were still called ambulances during the Franco-Prussian War[5] of 1870 and in the Serbo-Turkish war of 1876[6] even though the wagons were first referred to as ambulances about 1854 during the Crimean War.[7]

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