noun, plural em·bar·goes.

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), em·bar·goed, em·bar·go·ing.

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 formspre·em·bar·go, adjective
Can be confusedboycott embargo

Synonyms for embargo

4. ban, restriction, interdiction, postscription.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for embargo

Contemporary Examples of embargo

Historical Examples of embargo

  • 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 plural -goes

a government order prohibiting the departure or arrival of merchant ships in its ports
any legal stoppage of commercean embargo on arms shipments
a restraint, hindrance, or prohibition

verb -goes, -going or -goed (tr)

to lay an embargo upon
to seize for use by the state

Word Origin for embargo

C16: from Spanish, from embargar, from Latin im- + barra bar 1
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

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

embargo in Culture


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.