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From embarrass +‎ -ment.


  • IPA(key): /ɪmˈbæɹəsmənt/
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embarrassment (countable and uncountable, plural embarrassments)

  1. A state of discomfort arising from bashfulness or consciousness of having violated a social rule; humiliation.
    • 1998 February 22, Judith Martin, “Tease and sympathy”, in The Washington Post[1]:
      The desired effect [of affectionate teasing] is a look of pleasurable embarrassment, as if you administered a compliment. Anyone who doesn't stop teasing immediately upon producing real embarrassment, anger or tears is not really teasing.
  2. A person or thing which is the cause of humiliation to another.
    Jack, you are an embarrassment to this family.
    Losing this highly publicized case was an embarrassment to the firm.
    • 2014 August 21, “A brazen heist in Paris [print version: International New York Times, 22 August 2014, p. 8]”, in The New York Times[2]:
      The audacious hijacking in Paris of a van carrying the baggage of a Saudi prince to his private jet is obviously an embarrassment to the French capital, whose ultra-high-end boutiques have suffered a spate of heists in recent months.
  3. A large collection of good or valuable things, especially one that exceeds requirements or causes some sort of hindrance.
    • 1914, Collier's, page 30:
      There are over 5,000 Americans now in Paris, many artists, singers, musicians, writers, and actors, so many, indeed, the committee could hardly pick a program from an embarrassment of volunteers.
    • 1996, David Morgan Evans, Peter Salway, David Thackray, The Remains of Distant Times: Archaeology and the National Trust, Boydell & Brewer, →ISBN, page 188:
      The landscape presented an embarrassment of riches for the industrial archaeologist, and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century remains were still visible in abundance
    • 2013, Frank Boccia, The Crouching Beast: A United States Army Lieutenant's Account of the Battle for Hamburger Hill, May 1969, McFarland, →ISBN, page 256:
      At one time, I reflected, we'd had an embarrassment of good, qualified squad leader—ready men in the platoon.
  4. A state of confusion; hesitation; uncertainty
    • 1785, James Ridgway, A Dictionary of Literary Conversation[3]:
      [] and render them more intelligible than all the commentaries which have been written on them, for they generally render the authour more obscure, and lead the reader into greater embarrassments, by what they explain, than by what they leave untouched.
  5. (medicine) Impairment of function due to disease: respiratory embarrassment.
  6. (dated) Difficulty in financial matters; poverty.

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