Ask Difference

Nonambulatory vs. Ambulatory — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Published on October 31, 2023
Nonambulatory is unable to walk independently. Ambulatory is capable of walking or moving about.
Nonambulatory vs. Ambulatory — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Nonambulatory and Ambulatory


Key Differences

Nonambulatory and Ambulatory are terms often used in the medical field to describe a person's ability to move or walk. While Nonambulatory indicates that an individual cannot walk or move about independently, Ambulatory signifies that a person can walk or move without assistance.
A Nonambulatory person may require devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, or other mobility aids to move. Conversely, an Ambulatory individual can walk on their own, and they might not need any external aid or support.
The distinction between Nonambulatory and Ambulatory is vital in various medical and care settings. For instance, in an emergency, understanding whether a patient is Nonambulatory can influence evacuation strategies. Meanwhile, recognizing someone as Ambulatory indicates they might have greater freedom of movement.
It's essential to realize that being Nonambulatory doesn't necessarily mean complete immobility. Some Nonambulatory individuals can still move with support or devices. Ambulatory, on the other hand, generally implies a level of independence in mobility.
Both terms, Nonambulatory and Ambulatory, provide crucial information about a patient's physical condition, especially when determining care requirements, therapy, and other interventions.

Comparison Chart


Unable to walk or move independently.
Capable of walking or moving without aid.

Mobility Devices

Often requires aids like wheelchairs.
Typically doesn't require mobility aids.

Independence in Movement

Limited; needs support or devices.
Can move about freely without assistance.

Usage in Medical Setting

Indicates patient may need specific care.
Implies patient has a degree of mobility.


May signify disabilities or temporary conditions.
Suggests self-sufficiency in movement.

Compare with Definitions


Incapable of walking unaided.
Being Nonambulatory, he used crutches to move around.


Able to walk without assistance.
After the surgery, he remained Ambulatory.


Lacking independent mobility.
The condition left him Nonambulatory, needing constant care.


Not needing mobility aids for walking.
The goal of the rehab was to make the patient Ambulatory again.


Unable to walk without support.
After the accident, she became Nonambulatory and relied on a wheelchair.


Self-sufficient in mobility.
Despite his age, he was remarkably Ambulatory.


Not able to move about freely.
The disease rendered her Nonambulatory for several months.


The ambulatory (Latin: ambulatorium, ‘walking place’) is the covered passage around a cloister or the processional way around the east end of a cathedral or large church and behind the high altar. The first ambulatory was in France in the 11th century but by the 13th century ambulatories had been introduced in England and many English cathedrals were extended to provide an ambulatory.The same feature is often found in Indian architecture and Buddhist architecture generally, especially in older periods.


Requiring devices or support for walking.
Nonambulatory patients often benefit from physical therapy.


Of, relating to, or adapted for walking.


Not able to walk around.


Capable of walking; not bedridden
An ambulatory patient.


Designed for or available to patients who are not bedridden
Ambulatory care.
Ambulatory pediatrics.


Moving about; itinerant.


(Law) Relating to that which can be changed or revoked, as a will during the life of the testator.


An aisle around the back side of the chancel in a cathedral or other large church.


A covered place for walking, as in a cloister.


Of, relating to, or adapted to walking.
Ambulatory exercise


Able to walk about and not bedridden.
An ambulatory patient


(medicine) Performed on or involving an ambulatory patient or an outpatient.
An ambulatory electrocardiogram
Ambulatory medical care


Accustomed to move from place to place; not stationary; movable.
An ambulatory court, which exercises its jurisdiction in different places


(law) Not yet legally fixed or settled; alterable.
The dispositions of a will are ambulatory until the death of the testator.


The round walkway encircling the altar in many cathedrals.


Any part of a building intended for walking in; a corridor.


Of or pertaining to walking; having the faculty of walking; formed or fitted for walking; as, an ambulatory animal.


Accustomed to move from place to place; not stationary; movable; as, an ambulatory court, which exercises its jurisdiction in different places.
The priesthood . . . before was very ambulatory, and dispersed into all families.


Pertaining to a walk.
The princess of whom his majesty had an ambulatory view in his travels.


Not yet fixed legally, or settled past alteration; alterable; as, the dispositions of a will are ambulatory until the death of the testator.


A place to walk in, whether in the open air, as the gallery of a cloister, or within a building.


Able to walk about;
The patient is ambulatory


Capable of moving about freely.
She was thankful to be Ambulatory after the cast was removed.


Independent in terms of walking or movement.
Most adults are Ambulatory unless they have specific health issues.

Common Curiosities

What does Nonambulatory mean?

Nonambulatory means unable to walk or move independently, often requiring support or aids.

What are typical reasons someone might be Nonambulatory?

Causes can include injuries, diseases, congenital conditions, or age-related factors.

Are Ambulatory assessments common in medical settings?

Yes, determining whether a patient is Ambulatory helps in planning care and interventions.

What devices might a Nonambulatory person use?

Common devices include wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, or prosthetics.

Is Ambulatory only about walking?

Primarily, yes, but it can also imply the ability to move about freely.

Can a Nonambulatory person move at all?

Yes, many Nonambulatory individuals can move with the help of devices or support.

Is being Ambulatory the same as being healthy?

Not necessarily. Being Ambulatory means one can move about, but they might have other health issues.

How is Ambulatory different from Nonambulatory?

While Ambulatory indicates the ability to walk or move without assistance, Nonambulatory signifies a lack of this ability.

Do all elderly people become Nonambulatory?

No, many elderly individuals remain Ambulatory, though they might move slower or with aid.

Can someone transition from Nonambulatory to Ambulatory?

Yes, with therapies, treatments, or recovery from temporary conditions, this transition is possible.

Can a person be temporarily Nonambulatory?

Absolutely, conditions like injuries or surgeries might temporarily render someone Nonambulatory.

How important is it to know if a patient is Nonambulatory in a hospital?

Very important, as it impacts care decisions, patient safety, and potential interventions.

Does Ambulatory also refer to outpatient medical services?

Yes, "ambulatory care" refers to medical services without an overnight hospital stay.

Can therapy help in making a Nonambulatory person Ambulatory?

Often, with physical therapy and other interventions, some individuals can regain mobility.

How does being Nonambulatory impact daily life?

It can affect independence, activities, transportation, and may require modifications in living spaces.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger

Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms