Definitions

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

  • n. A difficult or intricate situation; an entanglement.
  • n. A confused or complicated disagreement.
  • n. A confused heap; a tangle.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a complicated situation; an entanglement

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An intricate, complicated plot, as of a drama or work of fiction.
  • n. A complicated and embarrassing state of things; a serious misunderstanding or disagreement, especially one that is bitter.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An intricate and perplexing state of affairs; a misunderstanding of a complicated nature, as between persons or nations; an entanglement.
  • n. An intricate or complicated plot, as against a person, or of a romance or drama.
  • n. In music, a passage in which the rhythms of different voice-parts are conflicting or contradictory.

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

  • n. a very embarrassing misunderstanding
  • n. an intricate and confusing interpersonal or political situation

Etymologies

Italian, from Old Italian, from imbrogliare, to tangle, confuse : in-, in (from Latin; see in-2) + brogliare, to mix, stir (probably from Old French brooiller, brouiller; see broil2).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian imbroglio "tangle", from imbrogliare "to tangle", cognate with and probably from an earlier form of French embrouiller "muddle, embroil", from em- "en-" + brouiller. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • "This free-speech imbroglio is another example of Park Service leadership with its head in the sand, waiting to get sued rather than affirmatively addressing issues before they end up in court," Ruch said.

    Permit process eased for gatherings at national parks

  • "This free speech imbroglio is another example of Park Service leadership with its head in the sand, waiting to get sued rather than affirmatively addressing issues before they end up in court," Ruch said.

    Need for permits eased at national parks

  • What's been a little surprising about this Caprio imbroglio is that it took some days for the climax to arrive.

    Rhode Island Democrat: Obama Can 'Shove It'

  • As crises go, the Clinton-Lewinsky imbroglio is now an absurdist, bathetic footnote to what was in fact significant about that era: the evolution of finance in a culture of deregulation and the evolution of jihadism against the United States.

    Time For A Slow-Word Movement

  • The Williams imbroglio is teachable, but its lessons actually point in the opposite direction: America's public media system, including NPR, requires more funding, not less.

    Why Fox News should help fund NPR

  • Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales takes to Capitol Hill to testify today, it's worth keeping in mind what this whole imbroglio is really about.

    Easter Lemming Liberal News

  • Talk of a new cold war and of punishing Russia for the Georgian imbroglio is short-sighted, argues Peter Sain ley Berry ....

    EUobserver.com - Headline News

  • That's an odd choice of the word -- "imbroglio" -- which means a confusing situation.

    CNN Transcript May 26, 2001

  • Alberto R. Gonzales takes to Capitol Hill to testify today, it’s worth keeping in mind what this whole imbroglio is really about.

    mjh's blog — 2007 — April

  • Behind the imbroglio was an unusual structure that skirted standard procurement laws to allow for a joint decision by the governor and legislative leaders, opening the floodgates for a torrent of lobbying, campaign cash and attempted deal making, the report and former bidders said.

    Aqueduct Bidding Under Fire

Comments

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  • "The three small figures disappeared into the dimly lit streets of Sobek Croix, where gaslight was brown and half-hearted where it existed at all. Behind them the enormous imbroglio of colour, metal, glass, sugar and sweat continued to pour its noise and light pollution into the sky." From Perdido Street Station by China Mieville.

    October 1, 2011

  • I think the definition that is used more widely is an equal cross between the first and the third of the given definitions on this page.

    July 18, 2009

  • (*) etymology: italian - from imbrogliare to entangle; from middle french - embrouiller,
    (*) would assume most english speakers would utilise embroil

    May 8, 2009

  • "The one time he Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama explicitly addressed the issue of race, in his speech in Philadelphia on March 18 of this year – during the imbroglio over Reverend Jeremiah Wright – he took pains to show that he understood white anxieties about blacks."

    – Elizabeth Drew, "The Truth About the Election," New York Review of Books, 18 December 2008 – 14 January 2009, 94.

    December 14, 2008