embarrass (v.)

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.

updated on January 09, 2021