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 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

McGovern says that might be a tall order to ask of an affordable-housing developer. The imbroglio has divided the neighborhood. Jon Chesto,, "Saga of empty Cambridge courthouse tower enters a new chapter," 12 Aug. 2019 On Wednesday morning, Ryan’s presidential campaign issued a statement on the imbroglio. Sabrina Eaton,, "Rep. Tim Ryan takes heat for failing to put hand over heart during national anthem at presidential debate," 31 July 2019 While a standard greatest hits without anything new might be issued, what the contract says and what the artist wants -- or will do -- may make for a complicated imbroglio, those execs say. Ed Christman, Billboard, "Selling Swift: What's Next for Big Machine's Taylor-Made Catalog and Possible Greatest Hits?," 2 July 2019 The overtime imbroglio was the latest in a litany of embarrassments for the agency. Mark Arsenault,, "After scandals, State Police need to restore accountability, legal specialists say," 21 Mar. 2018 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

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

4 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for imbroglio

The first known use of imbroglio was in 1750

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English Language Learners Definition of imbroglio

formal : a complex dispute or argument

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one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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