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Borrowed from French embarrasser (to embarrass; to block, obstruct), from Spanish embarazar, from Portuguese embaraçar, from em- (in) (from Latin im-) + baraço (noose, rope), the latter ultimately being from Akkadian 𒄙 (GUR /⁠markasu⁠/, rope).



embarrass (third-person singular simple present embarrasses, present participle embarrassing, simple past and past participle embarrassed)

  1. (transitive) to humiliate; to disrupt somebody's composure or comfort with acting publicly or freely; to abash.
    The crowd's laughter and jeers embarrassed him.
  2. (transitive) To hinder from liberty of movement; to impede; to obstruct.
    The motion was advanced in order to embarrass the progress of the bill.
    • 1796, Benjamin Count of Rumford, “Of Chimney Fire-places”, in Essays, Political, Economical and Philosophical[1], page 330:
      If they [registers] act It all, it must be by opposing their flat surfaces to the current of rising smoke in a manner which cannot fail to embarrass and impede its motion..
    • 1896, Frederic Harrison, addendum to Harriet Martineau's translation of The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte Vol. 3, p. 418.:
      This will... be the principal part of education; and this alone will effectively dispel that theological philosophy, which, in its decline, is still powerful enough to embarrass the course both of intellectual and social progress.
    • 2004 October 15, Judith A. Snider, “kisikawpemootewin v. Canada, 2004 FC 1426”, in CanLII[2], retrieved 7 November 2020:
      In the case at bar, there is very little beyond bare assertions and bald statements against the unidentified and unspecified Defendant(s). The claim is vexatious in that the Defendant, if identifiable, is left both embarrassed and unable to defend itself. The Court is left with a proceeding so ill-defined that it is unable to discern an argument, or identify any specific material facts.
  3. (transitive) To involve in difficulties concerning money matters; to encumber with debt; to beset with urgent claims or demands.
    A man or his business is embarrassed when he cannot meet his pecuniary engagements.
  4. (transitive, dated) To perplex mentally; confuse, disconcert; catch off guard.


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