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[em-bahr-goh] /ɛmˈbɑr goʊ/
noun, plural embargoes.
an order of a government prohibiting the movement of merchant ships into or out of its ports.
an injunction from a government commerce agency to refuse freight for shipment, as in case of congestion or insufficient facilities.
any restriction imposed upon commerce by edict.
a restraint or hindrance; prohibition.
verb (used with object), embargoed, embargoing.
to impose an embargo on.
Origin of embargo
1595-1605; < Spanish, derivative of embargar to hinder, embarrass < Vulgar Latin *imbarricāre, equivalent to im- im-1 + -barricāre (*barr(a) bar1 + -icāre causative suffix)
Related forms
preembargo, adjective
Can be confused
boycott, embargo.
4. ban, restriction, interdiction, postscription. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for embargo
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But at a sign from me he took off the embargo with alacrity.

    The Shadow-Line Joseph Conrad
  • Boston with its environs and the interior counties were opposed to the embargo.

    Union and Democracy

    Allen Johnson
  • Then there had been the embargo, which for a while closed the ports.

    A Little Girl in Old Salem

    Amanda Minnie Douglas
  • The question was now between the enforcement of the embargo Act and war.

    Albert Gallatin John Austin Stevens
  • England immediately laid an embargo on the vessels of the powers signing it.

    Up The Baltic Oliver Optic
British Dictionary definitions for embargo


noun (pl) -goes
a government order prohibiting the departure or arrival of merchant ships in its ports
any legal stoppage of commerce: an embargo on arms shipments
a restraint, hindrance, or prohibition
verb (transitive) -goes, -going, -goed
to lay an embargo upon
to seize for use by the state
Word Origin
C16: from Spanish, from embargar, from Latin im- + barrabar1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for embargo

1590s, from Spanish embargo "seizure, embargo," noun of action from embargar "restrain impede," from Vulgar Latin *imbarricare, from in- "into, upon" (see in- (2)) + *barra (see bar (n.1)). As a verb, from 1640s. Related: Embargoed.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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embargo in Culture

embargo definition

A governmental restriction on trade for political purposes. The objective is to put pressure on other governments by prohibiting exports to or imports from those countries.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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