im·​bro·​glio im-ˈbrōl-(ˌ)yō How to pronounce imbroglio (audio)
plural imbroglios
: an acutely painful or embarrassing misunderstanding
: scandal sense 1a
survived the political imbroglio
: a violently confused or bitterly complicated altercation : embroilment
: an intricate or complicated situation (as in a drama or novel)
: a confused mass

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 (which has the 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, as well as the noun embroilment. 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 This is pretty much how things have been playing out over the past year with Joe Manchin and the Mountain Valley Pipeline—the cursed imbroglio that has now made it into this week’s debt ceiling deal. TNR Newsletters. Heather Souvaine Horn, The New Republic, 2 June 2023 The imbroglio reflects a concern among Israel’s allies that the Herzog boycott may not merely represent progressive frustration with Israel’s right-wing government, but opposition to Israel as a whole. Eric Cortellessa, Time, 18 July 2023 Some Republicans used sharper language to describe the legal imbroglio faced by Trump. Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, 30 July 2023 To his credit, Feinstein places the LIV Golf imbroglio in context, holding the necessary parties’ feet — including Feherty’s — to the fire while remaining clear-eyed about the complexities of the situation. Drew Millard, Washington Post, 8 June 2023 That could be a flat fee — say, $1 million or $2 million — or reimbursement of the conference’s legal fees during the letter imbroglio. Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 July 2023 But a more lethal imbroglio occurred on the M4 highway to Moscow as the Wagner column approached the city of Voronezh in the oblast of the same name. Sébastien Roblin, Popular Mechanics, 27 June 2023 Among the many battlefronts in the culture wars, few have raised a specter of worry among scientists more than the great big imbroglio over Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine, 1 July 2010 In 1988, she was involved in an imbroglio at a society gala on the dance floor of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Jacob Bernstein, New York Times, 4 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'imbroglio.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1750, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of imbroglio was in 1750


Dictionary Entries Near imbroglio

Cite this Entry

“Imbroglio.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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