im·​bro·​glio | \ im-ˈbrōl-(ˌ)yō How to pronounce imbroglio (audio) \
plural imbroglios

Definition of imbroglio

1a : an acutely painful or embarrassing misunderstanding
b : scandal sense 1a 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 One senator who hasn't been heard from is Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, who was a member of the Senate during the Garland imbroglio. Bryn Stole | Staff Writer,, "Sen. John Kennedy signals support for moving forward with Trump nomination for Supreme Court," 23 Sep. 2020 The imbroglio could overwhelm Chief Justice John Roberts’s efforts to protect the court’s institutional standing. Greg Stohr,, "Trump Rush to Fill Seat Draws Supreme Court Into Political Mire," 20 Sep. 2020 The Utah Legislature recently repealed a provision from earlier this year that allowed a town to absorb land without a bordering county’s consent, which opened the door to the current imbroglio between Summit County and Hideout. Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Hideout Town Council meets to restart expansion plans before it’s too late," 5 Sep. 2020 The imbroglio with Irish government leaders comes at a challenging time for the EU, with Hogan helping chart its future association with the U.K. and leading talks to update trade ties with the U.S., a relationship worth about $1.3 trillion a year. Peter Flanagan,, "EU Trade Chief’s Defense of Pandemic Actions Draws Irish Ire," 25 Aug. 2020 Last week, Bill Morneaustepped down as finance minister, marking the biggest political casualty to date from the imbroglio. Paul Vieira, WSJ, "Canada’s Conservative Party Selects Former Military Officer as New Leader," 24 Aug. 2020 John Hickenlooper’s ethics imbroglio this month has brought him plenty of political embarrassment, but Colorado political watchers say a key question remains unanswered in the U.S. Senate race. Jon Murray, The Denver Post, "John Hickenlooper’s ethics violations raise question in Senate race: Will voters care?," 14 June 2020 The mastermind behind Donald Trump's Ukraine imbroglio is now sticking his oar in this autumn's presidential debates. Stephen Collinson With Caitlin Hu And Vedika Sud, CNN, "Presidential debates and Modi's China challenge," 23 June 2020 Now, however, the 56-year-old Biegun may be thrust on to the world stage – and into the domestic imbroglio over impeachment. Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY, "Senate confirms Trump's North Korea envoy and possible Pompeo successor as No. 2 at State," 20 Dec. 2019

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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The first known use of imbroglio was in 1750

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Last Updated

27 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Imbroglio.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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How to pronounce imbroglio (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of imbroglio

formal : a complex dispute or argument

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