embargo

1 of 2

noun

em·​bar·​go im-ˈbär-(ˌ)gō How to pronounce embargo (audio)
plural embargoes
1
: an order of a government prohibiting the departure of commercial ships from its ports
2
: a legal prohibition on commerce
a trade embargo
3
: stoppage, impediment
especially : prohibition
I lay no embargo on anybody's words Jane Austen
4
: an order by a common carrier or public regulatory agency prohibiting or restricting freight transportation

embargo

2 of 2

verb

embargoed; embargoing

transitive verb

: to place an embargo on

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When Should You Use embargo?

English speakers got embargo—both the word and the concept, it seems—from the Spanish in the early 17th century. The word first referred specifically to a government order prohibiting commercial ships from entering or leaving that country’s ports. (The Spanish word comes from embargar, “to bar.”) By the middle of the 17th century embargo was being used more broadly to refer to any government order that limits trade in some way. Today, the word is applied more broadly still to refer to various prohibitions. Publishers, for example, often place an embargo on a book to prevent stores from selling it before its official release date. And in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, Anne Elliot says “I lay no embargo on anybody's words.” We feel similarly.

Examples of embargo in a Sentence

Noun there's a standing embargo against the use of foul language in this house
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
More than 180 humanitarian organizations and rights groups have signed a call for an arms embargo, first issued in January. Missy Khamvongsa, Washington Post, 5 Apr. 2024 There were calls for a U.K. arms embargo on Israel even before the World Central Kitchen attack In towns and cities across the U.K., protests have sprung up in recent weeks and months, outside factories where components for Israeli F-35 fighter jets are made. Lauren Frayer, NPR, 4 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for embargo 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'embargo.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Spanish, from embargar to bar, from Vulgar Latin *imbarricare, from Latin in- + Vulgar Latin *barra bar

First Known Use

Noun

1602, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1755, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of embargo was in 1602

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Dictionary Entries Near embargo

Cite this Entry

“Embargo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/embargo. Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

embargo

noun
em·​bar·​go
im-ˈbär-gō
plural embargoes
1
: an order of a government prohibiting commercial ships from leaving its ports
2
: legal prohibition or restriction of trade
3
: an informal or unofficial stoppage : impediment
especially : prohibition sense 2
embargo verb

Legal Definition

embargo

1 of 2 noun
em·​bar·​go im-ˈbär-gō, em- How to pronounce embargo (audio)
plural embargoes
1
: an order of a government prohibiting the departure of commercial ships from its ports
2
: a legal prohibition on commerce
an embargo on arms shipments
3
: an order by a common carrier or public regulatory agency prohibiting or restricting freight transportation

embargo

2 of 2 transitive verb
embargoed; embargoing
: to place an embargo on
Etymology

Noun

Spanish, from embargar to bar

More from Merriam-Webster on embargo

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