“Imbed” vs. “Embed”: What’s The Difference?

dark aqua text "imbed vs embed" on light aqua background

Do the words embed and imbed mean different things or not?

In this article, we’ll look at the meanings of the words embed and imbed, explain whether they’re used in different ways, and also cover the forms embedded, imbedded, embedding, and imbedding.

Quick summary

Imbed is simply an alternate spelling of embed. It has all of the same meanings and can be used in the same way as embed, but it’s much less commonly used.

imbed vs. embed

Embed has many different meanings. It’s most commonly used as a verb meaning “to fix into a surrounding mass” (embed stones in cement) or “to incorporate or contain as an essential characteristic” (A love of color is embedded in all of her paintings), among other things.

Imbed is simply a variant spelling of embed—and it is much less commonly used. Imbed doesn’t have any different meanings, uses, or senses. It is simply a different way to spell the word embed.

The word embed is also used in a few more specific ways. It’s used in the context of digital files being incorporated into things. It’s also used in an entirely separate way in the context of a person, especially a journalist, traveling with a military unit or working closely with some group. Because these senses of the word are more recent, it’s even less likely for imbed to be used as an alternate spelling in these contexts.

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imbedded vs. embedded

Embedded is the past tense and past participle form of the verb embed. As the past participle, embedded is also used as an adjective, as in The embedded stones are starting to come loose. Imbedded is simply a less common spelling variant of embedded.

imbedding vs. embedding

Similarly, embedding is the present participle (used in the continuous verb tense) and gerund form of the verb embed, and again imbedding is a less common spelling variant.

Heads up! We're tossing another commonly confused pair at you: "through" vs. "threw".

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