from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A government order prohibiting the movement of merchant ships into or out of its ports.
  • noun A prohibition by a government on certain or all trade with a foreign nation.
  • noun A prohibition; a ban.
  • transitive verb To impose an embargo on.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To lay an embargo upon; restrain the movement or voluntary use of, as ships or property, especially as an act of sovereignty or of public policy; make a seizure or arrestment of. See embargo, n.
  • noun A stoppage or seizure of ships or merchandise by sovereign authority; specifically, a restraint or prohibition imposed by the authorities of a country on merchant vessels, or other ships, to prevent their leaving its ports, and sometimes amounting to an interdiction of commercial intercourse either with a particular country or with all countries.
  • noun Hence A restraint or hindrance imposed on anything: as, to lay an embargo on free speech.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To lay an embargo on and thus detain; to prohibit from leaving port; -- said of ships, also of commerce and goods.
  • noun An edict or order of the government prohibiting the departure of ships of commerce from some or all of the ports within its dominions; a prohibition to sail.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun An order by the government prohibiting ships from leaving port.
  • noun A ban on trade with another country.
  • noun A temporary ban on making certain information public.
  • verb transitive To impose an embargo on trading certain goods with another country.
  • verb transitive To impose an embargo on a document.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb prevent commerce
  • noun a government order imposing a trade barrier
  • verb ban the publication of (documents), as for security or copyright reasons


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Spanish, from embargar, to impede, from Vulgar Latin *imbarricāre, to barricade : Latin in-, in; see en– + Vulgar Latin *barricāre, to barricade (from *barrīca, barrel, barrier, from *barra, bar, barrier).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Spanish embargar ("to arrest").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word embargo.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • In bookselling, a rule that prohibits the sale or display of a book (e.g., the newest Harry Potter title) until a specific date determined by the publisher--even if a bookstore has already received its copies.

    October 23, 2007

  • Embargos are macabre. Sad Nell, listen O! not to no nets — I'll lend a Serb a camera so grab me!

    October 18, 2008

  • "Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel's extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles. In a report released today, Amnesty International detailed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Israel."

    - Rory McCarthy, Suspend military aid to Israel, Amnesty urges Obama after detailing US weapons used in Gaza,, 23 Feb 2009.

    February 23, 2009