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
b : hinder, impede
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

The parents to one-year-old Stormi Webster were seen swaying in each other's arms before a party attendee started embarrassing them on camera, according to a clip posted by fan account @kimkardsahiansnap. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kylie Jenner Wears a Sexy Gold Two-Piece Look to Kourtney Kardashian's Birthday," 19 Apr. 2019 The 17-year-old didn’t thrive in the aggressive assignment (.242/.266/.258) but didn’t embarrass himself either, setting himself up to start 2018 in the Midwest League. Jeff Sanders, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Shortstops to watch in the Padres' farm system," 22 Sep. 2017 Tampons are basically really big Band-Aids, and there's nothing embarrassing about those. Hannah Orenstein, Seventeen, "17 Surprising Ways You've Internalized Misogyny," 8 Mar. 2019 From the firm’s perspective, this was purely an administrative error, albeit an embarrassing one. Mike Kerrigan, WSJ, "How to Handle Rejection When You Never Applied," 3 Mar. 2019 Now imagine having to see every single person who saw you do that embarrassing drunk thing, every day for months and months. Rebecca Shinners, Woman's Day, "17 Secrets Cruise Ship Workers Don't Want You to Know," 8 July 2016 Thailand was also embarrassed by images of Mr. Araibi wearing leg irons to a court hearing this month. Rob Taylor, WSJ, "Thailand Frees Refugee Soccer Player Who Drew Global Concern," 11 Feb. 2019 Bush Hager imagines he would've been embarrassed by the focus on him. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Jenna Bush Hager Shares How it Feels to Lose Someone in the Public Eye," 10 Dec. 2018 With what was a head-scratching and embarrassing series finally coming to an end for the Trail Blazers, fans in Portland and beyond want to know who is to blame for such an epic collapse. Tim Brown, OregonLive.com, "Who do you blame for the Portland Trail Blazers' embarrassing playoff exit: The players or Neil Olshey?," 21 Apr. 2018

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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Statistics for embarrass

Last Updated

7 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for embarrass

The first known use of embarrass was in 1578

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More Definitions for embarrass

embarrass

verb

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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