Definition of embarrass
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
: to become anxiously self-conscious he embarrasses easily
embarrassableplay \im-ˈber-ə-sə-bəl, -ˈba-rə-\ adjective
embarrass was our Word of the Day on 12/26/2010. Hear the podcast!
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.
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.
Origin and Etymology of embarrass
French embarrasser, from Spanish embarazar, from Portuguese embaraçar, from em- (from Latin in-) + baraça noose
First Known Use: 1578
Synonym Discussion of embarrass
EMBARRASS Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of embarrass for English Language Learners
: to make (someone) feel confused and foolish in front of other people
: to make (a person, group, government, etc.) look foolish in public
EMBARRASS Defined for Kids
Definition of embarrass for Students
: 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
Medical Definition of embarrass
: to impair the activity of (a bodily function) or the function of (a bodily part) digestion embarrassed by overeating
Seen and Heard
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