French embarrasser, from Spanish embarazar, from Portuguese embaraçar, from em- (from Latin in-) + baraça noose
- Date: 1672
- 1 a : to place in doubt, perplexity, or difficulties
- b : to involve in financial difficulties
- c : to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress <bawdy stories embarrassed him>
- 2 a : to hamper the movement of
- b : hinder, impede
- 3 : to make intricate : complicate
- 4 : to impair the activity of (a bodily function) or the function of (a bodily part) <digestion embarrassed by overeating>
Embarrassment is an emotional state experienced upon having a socially or professionally unacceptable act or condition witnessed by or revealed to others. Usually some amount of loss of honor or dignity is involved, but how much and the type depends on the embarrassing situation. It is similar to shame, except that shame may be experienced for an act known only to oneself. Also, embarrassment usually carries the connotation of being caused by an act that is merely socially unacceptable, rather than morally wrong.
The science of embarrassment is called emderatology. Emderatology is a technique often used by the employers to examine the way their employees deal with this. Embarrassment can be personal, caused by unwanted attention to private matters or personal flaws or mishaps. Some causes of embarrassment stem from personal actions, such as being caught in a lie or in making a mistake, losing badly in a competition, getting debagged, or being caught performing bodily functions such as flatulence. In many cultures, being seen nude or inappropriately dressed is a particularly stressful form of embarrassment (see modesty). Personal embarrassment could also stem from the actions of others which place the embarrassed person in a socially awkward situation, such as having one's awkward baby pictures shown to friends, having someone make a derogatory comment about one's appearance or behavior, discovering one is the victim of gossip, being rejected by another person (see also humiliation), being made the focus of attention (e.g. birthday celebrants, newlyweds), or even witnessing someone else's embarrassment.
Personal embarrassment is usually accompanied by some combination of blushing, sweating, nervousness, stammering, and fidgeting. Sometimes the embarrassed person will try to mask embarrassment with smiles or nervous laughter, especially in etiquette situations; such a response is more common in certain cultures, which may lead to misunderstanding. There may even be an angry response depending on the perceived seriousness of the situation.