Part of speech:
(Countable nouns, like “bottle,” “piece,” and “decision,” are words for things that can be broken into exact units. You talk about “a bottle,” “three pieces,” and “many decisions.”
Likewise, talk about one imbroglio or multiple imbroglios.)
An imbroglio is a complicated misunderstanding, or a complicated and confusing situation. Imbroglios are often painful, bitter, and embarrassing.
More generally, an imbroglio can also be a big, messy heap of things, but I hardly ever see the word used in this way.
The plural is "imbroglios."
Sometimes you'll see the spelling "embroglio."
Why the silent letter? Why isn't it pronounced "im BROG lee yo"?
We borrowed this word from Italian. It's closely related to the word "embroil." And you can certainly say "embroilment" instead of "imbroglio" when you need simplicity and clarity more than the grace and flair of "imbroglio."
How to use it:
Imbroglios tend to happen between or among lovers, friends, family members, coworkers, politicians, and nations. You often use this word to describe situations in fiction: sitcoms generally focus on one or two imbroglios in each episode, several imbroglios unravel at the end of a novel, etc.
Note that imbroglios usually happen between at leasttwo people. If you need a word for a difficult, confusing, painful, embarrassing situation that only affects one person, let me suggest quandary or quagmire instead.
Descriptive adjectives or nouns often come before this word: a tax imbroglio, this dress code imbroglio, the high-stakes testing imbroglio, that legal imbroglio, one political imbroglio after another, and so on. Possessives are often used, too: her imbroglio, their imbroglio, the entire league's imbroglio, Google's latest imbroglio, Greece's financial imbroglio, etc.
When I look back on my various high school imbroglios, now that I have both maturity and hindsight, it's clear that they were extremely silly. But at the time it was a huge deal that my two best friends suddenly stopped speaking to me and wouldn't tell me why, for example.
One of my favorite funny imbroglios from The Big Bang Theory involves Sheldon trying to shape Penny's behavior by giving her chocolates after she does something nice, with Leonard protesting that Sheldon is being ridiculous.
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You’ll know you understand what "imbroglio” means when you can explain it without saying “misunderstanding" or “socially awkward situation."
Think of a time you witnessed or experienced an ongoing and super-awkward social situation, and fill in the blanks: "Because _____, (person or people) (can't/couldn't) seem to get out of that imbroglio."
Example: "Because they have no idea that their politically-charged rants are unwelcome and completely opposite to our own views, and because we're obligated to spend time with each other, we can't seem to get out of that imbroglio without a confrontation or hurt feelings."
Spend at least 20 seconds occupying your mind with the game and quote below. Then try the review questions. Don’t go straight to the review now—let your working memory empty out first.
Playing With Words:
This month's game content is protected by a copyright, so I can't reprint the trivia questions here--but check out the thoughtful and thorough reference book that I got them from: Last Words of Notable People!
A Point Well Made:
Tom Stoppard: “I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead.”
1. The opposite of IMBROGLIO is
2. His first year of teaching at the new school was, _____, filled with departmental and administrative imbroglios.
B. much to his advantage
C. in accordance with best practices
Answers are below.
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Disclaimer: Word meanings presented here are expressed in plain language and are limited to common, useful applications only. Readers interested in authoritative and multiple definitions of words are encouraged to check a dictionary. Likewise, word meanings, usage, and pronunciations are limited to American English; these elements may vary across world Englishes.
Answers to review questions:
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