What It Means
1 a : an acutely painful or embarrassing misunderstanding
b : a circumstance or action that offends propriety or established moral conceptions or disgraces those associated with it : scandal
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
"He was close to scandal—GOP chairman during the Watergate years, vice president during the Iran-Contra imbroglio—yet was not tainted by it." — David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe, 1 Dec. 2018
"The present imbroglio follows protracted struggles over the budget of the sheriff's office, the fate of the 911 system, the county role in reducing blight and who should pay what for animal control." — Rockford (Illinois) Register Star, 13 Dec. 2018
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.
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