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 Maybe by then the rest of the country will have forgotten about the imbroglio over Chick-fil-A that San Antonio International is best known for right now. Greg Jefferson,, "San Antonio’s airport inferiority complex," 17 Oct. 2019 Consider McKinsey’s imbroglios in South Africa and Mongolia. Ian Macdougall, ProPublica, "How McKinsey Makes Its Own Rules," 14 Dec. 2019 The imbroglio over Ukraine has renewed, and even sharpened, the despair by revealing the way Trump administration officials were willing to withhold US aid until Ukraine committed to investigating the president’s political enemies., "And they are opening their wallets to help raise money — including nearly $10,000 last Monday alone — to offset the legal bills of department officials called to testify before Congress.," 10 Nov. 2019 But the imbroglio over Ukraine has renewed, and even sharpened, the despair by revealing the way Trump administration officials were willing to withhold American aid until Ukraine committed to investigating the president’s political enemies. Michael Crowley, New York Times, "How the State Dept.’s Dissenters Incited a Revolt, Then a Rallying Cry," 9 Nov. 2019 The Sara Lee imbroglio, however, should not detract from Styles’s unanimously stellar performance on the rest of the show. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Sara Lee Had a Very Sara Lee Response to Harry Styles’s SNL Skit," 18 Nov. 2019 But analysts said the postelection imbroglio was far from resolved., "JERUSALEM — After 27 years of sitting out decisions on who should lead Israel, Arab lawmakers on Sunday recommended that Benny Gantz, the centrist former army chief, be given the first chance to form a government over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a watershed assertion of political power.," 23 Sep. 2019 Overall, the Kashmir imbroglio has received considerable international attention since Aug. 5, a situation that India, which deems the issue a strictly bilateral one, has avoided for decades and Pakistan has sought desperately. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "As Jammu & Kashmir loses its political status, here’s what the past 80 days have meant for it," 31 Oct. 2019 As with the projection of the Mueller case, Trump’s domestic foes in the Ukraine imbroglio were accusing Trump of what they themselves had done. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Anti-Trump Psychodrama 10.0?," 8 Oct. 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

9 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Imbroglio.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 20 January 2020.

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English Language Learners Definition of imbroglio

formal : a complex dispute or argument

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not to be intimidated or subdued

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