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

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 But as the imbroglio roiled on, the board determined that Wilson’s disruptive actions stood to imperil the college’s accreditation. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 2 Nov. 2021 People familiar with the Biden administration’s deliberations said the trading imbroglio hasn’t loomed large in internal discussions regarding Fed personnel decisions. Nick Timiraos, WSJ, 21 Oct. 2021 People familiar with the administration’s deliberations said Ms. Warren’s attacks haven’t landed and that the trading imbroglio is viewed as unfortunate but not scandalous. Nick Timiraos, WSJ, 15 Oct. 2021 This latest imbroglio seems only to be accelerating the drift. David A. Andelman, CNN, 24 Sep. 2021 Newsom, who later apologized for attending the dinner, went on to survive a recall election last week that was instigated in part by the imbroglio. Devan Cole, CNN, 20 Sep. 2021 Mario takes the case and is soon up to his neck in a perplexing imbroglio involving false identity, Miami connections and multiple murders. Tom Nolan, WSJ, 25 June 2021 Facebook recovered quickly from the boycott and posted record revenue in last year’s third quarter despite the imbroglio. Sarah E. Needleman, WSJ, 9 June 2021 The Texas imbroglio may be the first sign of a more aggressive counterattack against Republican restrictive voting bills that are proliferating from Texas to Florida and Arizona to Georgia as well as many other states. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 1 June 2021

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.

See More

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

Learn More About imbroglio

Time Traveler for imbroglio

Time Traveler

The first known use of imbroglio was in 1750

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About imbroglio

Dictionary Entries Near imbroglio




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for imbroglio

Last Updated

15 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Imbroglio.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for imbroglio



English Language Learners Definition of imbroglio

: a complex dispute or argument


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!