embarrass

verb
em·​bar·​rass | \ im-ˈber-əs How to pronounce embarrass (audio) , -ˈba-rəs \
embarrassed; embarrassing; embarrasses

Definition of embarrass

transitive verb

1a : to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress bawdy stories embarrassed him
b : to place in doubt, perplexity, or difficulties
c : to involve in financial difficulties
2a : to hamper the movement of
3 : to make intricate : complicate
4 : to impair the activity of (a bodily function) or the function of (a bodily part) digestion embarrassed by overeating

intransitive verb

: to become anxiously self-conscious he embarrasses easily

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Other Words from embarrass

embarrassable \ im-​ˈber-​ə-​sə-​bəl How to pronounce embarrassable (audio) , -​ˈba-​rə-​ \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for embarrass

embarrass, discomfit, abash, disconcert, rattle mean to distress by confusing or confounding. embarrass implies some influence that impedes thought, speech, or action. The question embarrassed her so much she couldn't answer discomfit implies a hampering or frustrating accompanied by confusion. Hecklers discomfited the speaker abash presupposes some initial self-confidence that receives a sudden check, producing shyness, shame, or a feeling of inferiority. abashed by her swift and cutting retort disconcert implies an upsetting of equanimity or assurance producing uncertainty or hesitancy. disconcerted by finding so many in attendance rattle implies an agitation that impairs thought and judgment. rattled by all the television cameras

Embarrass: Its Spelling and Use

Are you here because you spelled embarrass wrong? Don't be embarrassed.

Instead, remember that the word embarrass got those embarrassing r's and s's from the French: English embarrass comes from the French word embarrasser.

When used as an active verb, embarrass is most often seen in constructions like "x embarrasses/embarrassed me/them." The word is also very commonly used as a passive verb. In such cases, the preposition by is a frequent companion:

Private companies were embarrassed by being shown to co-operate with the American authorities.
The Economist, 12 Nov. 2016

Teenagers are always easily embarrassed by their parents.
— Farley Granger, Include Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway, 2007

In that moment, I know I have begun to assign the termites the powers of volition and desire, the experiences of pain and regret. I am embarrassed by this, and dare not mention it to the scientists.
— Duncan Murrell, Harper's, August 2005

People are also regularly embarrassed about something:

His attorney said he was embarrassed about the incident and didn't want anybody to notice him.
— Richard Martin, The Atlantic Monthly, June 2001

Fiction has no reason to be embarrassed about telling the same story again and again, since we all, with infinite variations, live the same story.
— John Simon, The New Republic, 21 Nov. 1983

Sometimes they're embarrassed (or not) on someone's behalf—that is, they're embarrassed for someone:

Nobody ever felt embarrassed for Yoko Ono.
— Bruno Maddox, Spy, November 1996

They're less commonly embarrassed at something:

She would be deeply embarrassed at my admiration, more so at my naming her in print.
— Nancy Harmon Jenkins, The New York Times Magazine, 4 May 1986

His cogent reasoning made me embarrassed at my own first reaction….
—David Greenberg, The New Republic, 14 Nov. 1994

Occasionally, and by some measures increasingly, people are embarrassed of something, as in "They're embarrassed of the way it happened." This use is not yet common in published, edited text and is considered by some to be a mistake.

Did You Know?

If you've ever been so embarrassed that you felt like you were caught up in a noose of shame you may have some insight into the origins of the word embarrass. The word can be traced back through French and Spanish to the Portuguese word embaraçar, which was itself probably formed as a combination of the prefix em- (from Latin in-) and "baraça," the Portuguese word for "noose." Though "embarrass" has had various meanings throughout its history in English, these days it most often implies making someone feel or look foolish.

Examples of embarrass in a Sentence

Unexpected laughter embarrassed the speaker. She's worried about embarrassing herself in front of such a large audience. I would never do anything to embarrass my family. The protest was staged as a deliberate attempt to embarrass the government.
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Recent Examples on the Web These sort of operational issues are as much the business of the governor as interest rate decisions and are deeply embarrassing for an organisation which has been lecturing the city on the need for better cyber-security. The Economist, "Old Lady, New Bailey In Andrew Bailey, the Bank of England gets a technocratic new boss," 20 Dec. 2019 Robyn George, a senior at Menomonee Falls High School, said she is embarrassed by the Indians name. Alec Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Menomonee Falls residents are in a heated debate over changing the high school's Native American mascot name," 17 Oct. 2019 Even before Franklin Roosevelt took office, the Senate embarrassed oligarchs through high-profile hearings and investigations known as the Pecora Commission. Wired, "Corporate America's Second War With the Rule of Law," 16 Oct. 2019 Power to embarrass, to highlight success, to spark media coverage, and to pinpoint where change is needed. National Geographic, "The best and worst countries to be a woman," 15 Oct. 2019 The reason Breanna gave me was that she is embarrassed by some of my family members and doesn’t want to introduce them to her family, so a destination wedding eliminates those people from attending. Dear Abby, oregonlive.com, "Dear Abby: Bride plans destination wedding to eliminate possibility of groom’s family attending," 30 June 2019 The reason Breanna gave me was that she is embarrassed by some of my family members and doesn’t want to introduce them to her family, so a destination wedding eliminates those people from attending. Abigail Van Buren, Houston Chronicle, "Destination wedding is aimed at shortening the guest list," 29 June 2019 Will they be embarrassed into doing something by the fact that legislators in their own party are taking up the cause? cleveland.com, "A deadly crisis has rocked the Cuyahoga County jail for more than a year, but the Cuyahoga County Council sits nearly silent: This Week in the CLE," 23 June 2019 The barista nonetheless used it to whip up a delicious Bomb - all without embarrassing me in the process. David Farkas, cleveland, "An eater’s guide to Van Aken Market Hall in Shaker Heights," 12 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'embarrass.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of embarrass

1578, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2a

History and Etymology for embarrass

French embarrasser, from Spanish embarazar, from Portuguese embaraçar, from em- (from Latin in-) + baraça noose

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Learn More about embarrass

Time Traveler for embarrass

Time Traveler

The first known use of embarrass was in 1578

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Statistics for embarrass

Last Updated

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Embarrass.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/embarrass. Accessed 22 January 2020.

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More Definitions for embarrass

embarrass

verb
How to pronounce embarrass (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of embarrass

: to make (someone) feel confused and foolish in front of other people
: to make (a person, group, government, etc.) look foolish in public

embarrass

verb
em·​bar·​rass | \ im-ˈber-əs How to pronounce embarrass (audio) \
embarrassed; embarrassing

Kids Definition of embarrass

: to cause to feel confused and foolish in front of other people Having to dismount to turn the bicycle around was embarrassing— Beverly Cleary, Ramona Quimby

embarrass

transitive verb
em·​bar·​rass | \ im-ˈbar-əs How to pronounce embarrass (audio) \

Medical Definition of embarrass

: to impair the activity of (a bodily function) or the function of (a bodily part) digestion embarrassed by overeating

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Comments on embarrass

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