embarrass

verb
em·​bar·​rass | \ im-ˈber-əs How to pronounce embarrass (audio) , -ˈba-rəs \
embarrassed; embarrassing; embarrasses

Definition of embarrass

transitive verb

1a : to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress bawdy stories embarrassed him
b : to place in doubt, perplexity, or difficulties
c : to involve in financial difficulties
2a : to hamper the movement of
b : hinder, impede
3 : to make intricate : complicate
4 : to impair the activity of (a bodily function) or the function of (a bodily part) digestion embarrassed by overeating

intransitive verb

: to become anxiously self-conscious he embarrasses easily

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from embarrass

embarrassable \ im-​ˈber-​ə-​sə-​bəl How to pronounce embarrass (audio) , -​ˈba-​rə-​ \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for embarrass

embarrass, discomfit, abash, disconcert, rattle mean to distress by confusing or confounding. embarrass implies some influence that impedes thought, speech, or action. the question embarrassed her so much she couldn't answer discomfit implies a hampering or frustrating accompanied by confusion. hecklers discomfited the speaker abash presupposes some initial self-confidence that receives a sudden check, producing shyness, shame, or a feeling of inferiority. abashed by her swift and cutting retort disconcert implies an upsetting of equanimity or assurance producing uncertainty or hesitancy. disconcerted by finding so many in attendance rattle implies an agitation that impairs thought and judgment. rattled by all the television cameras

Embarrass: Its Spelling and Use

Are you here because you spelled embarrass wrong? Don't be embarrassed.

Instead, remember that the word embarrass got those embarrassing r's and s's from the French: English embarrass comes from the French word embarrasser.

When used as an active verb, embarrass is most often seen in constructions like "x embarrasses/embarrassed me/them." The word is also very commonly used as a passive verb. In such cases, the preposition by is a frequent companion:

Private companies were embarrassed by being shown to co-operate with the American authorities.
The Economist, 12 Nov. 2016

Teenagers are always easily embarrassed by their parents.
— Farley Granger, Include Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway, 2007

In that moment, I know I have begun to assign the termites the powers of volition and desire, the experiences of pain and regret. I am embarrassed by this, and dare not mention it to the scientists.
— Duncan Murrell, Harper's, August 2005

People are also regularly embarrassed about something:

His attorney said he was embarrassed about the incident and didn't want anybody to notice him.
— Richard Martin, The Atlantic Monthly, June 2001

Fiction has no reason to be embarrassed about telling the same story again and again, since we all, with infinite variations, live the same story.
— John Simon, The New Republic, 21 Nov. 1983

Sometimes they're embarrassed (or not) on someone's behalf—that is, they're embarrassed for someone:

Nobody ever felt embarrassed for Yoko Ono.
— Bruno Maddox, Spy, November 1996

They're less commonly embarrassed at something:

She would be deeply embarrassed at my admiration, more so at my naming her in print.
— Nancy Harmon Jenkins, The New York Times Magazine, 4 May 1986

His cogent reasoning made me embarrassed at my own first reaction….
—David Greenberg, The New Republic, 14 Nov. 1994

Occasionally, and by some measures increasingly, people are embarrassed of something, as in "They're embarrassed of the way it happened." This use is not yet common in published, edited text and is considered by some to be a mistake.

Did you know?

If you've ever been so embarrassed that you felt like you were caught up in a noose of shame you may have some insight into the origins of the word embarrass. The word can be traced back through French and Spanish to the Portuguese word embaraçar, which was itself probably formed as a combination of the prefix em- (from Latin in-) and "baraça," the Portuguese word for "noose." Though "embarrass" has had various meanings throughout its history in English, these days it most often implies making someone feel or look foolish.

Examples of embarrass in a Sentence

Unexpected laughter embarrassed the speaker. She's worried about embarrassing herself in front of such a large audience. I would never do anything to embarrass my family. The protest was staged as a deliberate attempt to embarrass the government.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web DeCrane accused Eckart, with the help of others, of retaliating against him because the information about McGinnis became public and proved to embarrass the city. John Caniglia, cleveland, 2 Sep. 2021 Nothing appears to embarrass her, and this is someone who was engaged to reality-TV star Jesse James twice. Washington Post, 27 Aug. 2021 Teachers often embarrass female students when addressing dress code violations, Campos said, doing it publicly and in front of other students. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Aug. 2021 History tells us that when U.S. athletes embarrass themselves at the Olympics, the best thing for the USOPC to do is get out in front of it, fast. Christine Brennan, USA TODAY, 30 July 2021 Anansi Boys tells the story of Charlie Nancy, who learns that his recently deceased estranged father, the one who always used to embarrass him, was actually the god known as Anansi. Nick Romano, EW.com, 28 July 2021 Some departments include statements intended to mock the suspects or embarrass them, Low said in a letter urging the governor to sign the bill into law. Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 July 2021 The House speaker has given GOP lawmakers legitimate cause to boycott a process in which they were poised to embarrass themselves defending President Trump. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, 22 July 2021 All those Texas Democrats who fled their state are finding even more ways to embarrass themselves tonight as one Texas Democrat is comparing the threat of arrest. Fox News Staff, Fox News, 21 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'embarrass.' 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 embarrass

1578, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2a

History and Etymology for embarrass

French embarrasser, from Spanish embarazar, from Portuguese embaraçar, from em- (from Latin in-) + baraça noose

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About embarrass

Time Traveler for embarrass

Time Traveler

The first known use of embarrass was in 1578

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About embarrass

Dictionary Entries Near embarrass

embarras de richesses

embarrass

embarrassed

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for embarrass

Last Updated

18 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Embarrass.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/embarrass. Accessed 23 Sep. 2021.

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

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for embarrass

embarrass

verb

English Language Learners Definition of embarrass

: to make (someone) feel confused and foolish in front of other people
: to make (a person, group, government, etc.) look foolish in public

embarrass

verb
em·​bar·​rass | \ im-ˈber-əs How to pronounce embarrass (audio) \
embarrassed; embarrassing

Kids Definition of embarrass

: to cause to feel confused and foolish in front of other people Having to dismount to turn the bicycle around was embarrassing— Beverly Cleary, Ramona Quimby, Age 8

embarrass

transitive verb
em·​bar·​rass | \ im-ˈbar-əs How to pronounce embarrass (audio) \

Medical Definition of embarrass

: to impair the activity of (a bodily function) or the function of (a bodily part) digestion embarrassed by overeating

More from Merriam-Webster on embarrass

Nglish: Translation of embarrass for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of embarrass for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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