im·​bro·​glio | \im-ˈbrōl-(ˌ)yō \
plural imbroglios

Definition of imbroglio 

1a : an acutely painful or embarrassing misunderstanding

b : scandal sense 3a survived the political imbroglio

c : a violently confused or bitterly complicated altercation : embroilment

d : an intricate or complicated situation (as in a drama or novel)

2 : a confused mass

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Did You Know?

Imbroglio and "embroilment" are more than just synonyms; they're also linked through etymology. Both descend from the Middle French verb embrouiller (same meaning as "embroil"), from the prefix em-, meaning "thoroughly," plus brouiller, meaning "to mix" or "to confuse." ("Brouiller" is itself a descendant of an Old French word for broth.) Early in the 17th century, English speakers began using "embroil," a direct adaptation of "embrouiller." Our noun "embroilment," which also entered the language in the early 17th century, comes from the same source. Meanwhile, the Italians were using their own alteration of "embrouiller" : imbrogliare, meaning "to entangle." In the mid-18th century, English speakers embraced the Italian noun imbroglio as well.

Examples of imbroglio in a Sentence

a celebrated imbroglio involving some big names in the New York literary scene

Recent Examples on the Web

Uber has been trying to clean up its image following a year of scandals and legal imbroglios. Greg Bensinger, WSJ, "Saudi Money Flows Into Silicon Valley—and With It Qualms," 16 Oct. 2018 This isn’t just a matter of one or two individual institutions suffering through a temporary public relations imbroglio and a short-term decline in enrollment. Ted Mitchell, Washington Post, "Higher education must clean out its ‘front porch’," 25 Apr. 2018 The imbroglio involving Marcy’s secret lover is not the only weird stuff going on at Boca Pelicano Palms. Beth Kephart,, "Frances Metzman's 'Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Bay': The rules of dancing, life, and rocking thongs in a retirement village," 6 July 2018 The Boston Latin imbroglio quickly became a multifaceted nightmare. Adrian Walker,, "Another BPS superintendent has come and gone. Now what?," 1 July 2018 And Ronald Reagan’s library makes no mention of trading arms for hostages in the Iran-contra imbroglio. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Trump is losing the debate over splitting up immigrant families," 15 June 2018 Sara Netanyahu is not the first Israeli prime minister’s wife to face a legal imbroglio. Noga Tarnopolsky,, "Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli prime minister, charged with fraud over government funds for gourmet meals," 21 June 2018 But the disquieting beauty of Mr. Driessen’s rivers is in their indifference to human imbroglios. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction Chronicles: The Intoxicating Attraction of the Abyss," 8 June 2018 What sets Barr’s imbroglio apart from others is her character’s support of President Trump, which helped make the show a hit with conservative viewers. René A. Guzman, San Antonio Express-News, "ABC applauded for decision to cancel ‘Roseanne’," 29 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'imbroglio.' 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 imbroglio

1750, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for imbroglio

Italian, from imbrogliare to entangle, from Middle French embrouiller — more at embroil

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Statistics for imbroglio

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for imbroglio

The first known use of imbroglio was in 1750

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More Definitions for imbroglio



English Language Learners Definition of imbroglio

: a complex dispute or argument

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living or existing for a long time

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