1670s, "perplex, throw into doubt," from French embarrasser (16c.), literally "to block," from Italian imbarrazzo, from imbarrare "to bar," from assimilated form of in- "into, upon" (from PIE root *en "in") + Vulgar Latin *barra "bar" (see bar (n.1)).
Meaning "to hamper, hinder" is from 1680s. Meaning "make (someone) feel awkward" is attested by 1809. The original sense is preserved in embarras de richesse "the condition of having more wealth than one knows what to do with" (1751), from French (1726). Related: Embarrassed; embarrassing; embarrassingly.
"lower the brows, as in anger or displeasure, put on a frowning look," c. 1400, scoulen, probably from a Scandinavian source (compare Norwegian skule "look furtively, squint, look embarrassed," Danish skule "to scowl, cast down the eyes"). According to Klein's sources, this is probably related to Old English sceolh "wry, oblique," Old High German scelah "curved," German scheel "squint-eyed;" from a PIE root *sqel- "crooked, curved, bent." Related: Scowled; scowling; scowlingly.
1550s, "little tuft," from Old French touffel (with diminutive suffix -et for French -el), diminutive of touffe (see tuft). Obsolete except in the nursery rhyme "Little Miss Muffet" (1843), where it has been felt to mean "hassock, footstool."
LITTLE Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet
And made of her knees such display
That the old fashioned spider,
Embarrassed beside her,
Was actually frightened away!
[Life magazine, Oct. 1, 1927]
early 14c., "discomfited, routed, defeated" (of groups), serving at first as an alternative past participle of confound, as Latin confusus was the past participle of confundere "to pour together, mix, mingle; to join together;" hence, figuratively, "to throw into disorder; to trouble, disturb, upset."
The Latin past participle also was used as an adjective, with reference to mental states, "troubled, embarrassed," and this passed into Old French as confus "dejected, downcast, undone, defeated, discomfited in mind or feeling," which passed to Middle English as confus (14c.; for example Chaucer's "I am so confus, that I may not seye"), which then was assimilated to the English past-participle pattern by addition of -ed. By mid-16c., the word evolved a back-formed verb in confuse. Few English etymologies are more confusing.
Of individuals, "discomfited in mind, perplexed," from mid-14c.; in logic, "indistinct, indistinguishable from other ideas from which it ought to be different," 1610s. Meaning "lacking orderly arrangement of parts" is from 1776. Related: Confusedly.