When I first learned that the Spanish word for pregnant is "embarazada" I was immediately struck by the similarity to the English word "embarrassment". It seems both appropriate and inappropriate:

  1. On the one hand, pregnancy as such is nothing to be embarrassed about, if one is married (traditionally).

  2. On the other hand, pregnancy does seem somewhat embarrassing, even if one is married:

    • One has a huge belly awkwardly sticking out.
    • Its clear evidence one has been having sex.
  • 1
    The question itself is a good one, but I have to disagree about its approach.
    – Charlie
    Sep 19, 2016 at 6:44
  • American Heritage has 2. To make complex, intricate, or perplexing. I think that a pregnancy begins a complex new chapter in a person's life. Apr 6, 2017 at 1:11

4 Answers 4


Yes, there is a connection. You can find this bit of trivia in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

If you've ever been so embarrassed that you felt like you were caught up in a noose of shame you may have some insight into the origins of the word embarrass. The word can be traced back through French and Spanish to the Portuguese word embaraçar, which was itself probably formed as a combination of the prefix em- (from Latin in-) and "baraça," the Portuguese word for "noose." Though "embarrass" has had various meanings throughout its history in English, these days it most often implies making someone feel or look foolish.

So the English word "embarrass" comes directly from the Spanish language (among others in the list of steps). But, as user Menachem said, the drift of the meanings has been capricious and now we use that word to express two different concepts that have nothing to do with each other.


I just realized how old this question is after wasting my time answering a ghost. Sigh... Oh well.

In some of the stories I've read, one's wife is referred to as one's "costilla" and one's children are referred to as "los pecados". In others, one's sister is named (this is possibly obscene, I'm not sure)


So it wouldn't be surprising if there had been a humorous connection. The reality is the English came from French "embarras du choix" or hindrance from having so many choices because you're so rich that it's embarrassing. Which came from latin "in"+"barra" meaning "into the bar" for obstructed. The same question was answered here; however, the author who cites the Royal Spanish Academy did not seem to think the connection between the Latin etymological root from the link above was the origin:

[Embarazar] came from the Portuguese embaraçar, and the Royal Spanish Academy theorizes that word originated from Celtic because its root palabra existed before the Romans conquered the Iberian Peninsula.

However this same author states the following, despite the obvious connection between being blocked up/obstructed and pregnant:

Why a word that signifies a blockage came to represent pregnancy is unknown to etymologists

Therefore it might be necessary to find the un-cited reference directly if you're concerned about whether the root is celtic or latin.


The original meaning of embarrassed/embarazada was "to block/to impede". Usage of the words diverged from its original meaning through the natural evolution of languages.

  • 2
    Any citations to back this up?
    – Paul
    Oct 14, 2016 at 18:42

In the Latin culture it is a DEEPLY humiliating experience to parade any family member around with a large belly, that is obviously pregnant. These women being put on display, is a sign that the family is shameless and doesn't care about the family reputation, because in that culture, folks often assume the worst. Pregnant women are generally kept at home, away from public view, because the family doesn't want to give the impression that all their female relatives are having sex indiscriminately... It is EXTREMELY embarrassing for the family to expose their pregnant women in public, hence the word "embarazo" (embarrassing)...

  • 3
    I think that the OP was looking for and etymological reason for the similarities. You are providing a cultural reason to be ashamed of being pregnat, but you don't explain how that relates to the English word. I don't think that the word in Spanish carries those connotations.
    – Diego
    Apr 5, 2017 at 2:41
  • 2
    Um, do you have any sources for any of your assertions? Neither the cultural part nor the word connotations rings a bell with any latin culture I've come in contact with.
    – spiral
    Apr 5, 2017 at 7:31

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