Bartolomeo Cesi, Two Men in Florence Kissing (1600),[n 1] a drawing depicting two men embracing (sense 1)

The verb is derived from Middle English embracen (to clasp in one's arms, embrace; to reach out eagerly for, welcome; to enfold, entwine; to ensnare, entangle; to twist, wrap around; to gird, put on; to lace; to be in or put into bonds; to put a shield on the arm; to grasp (a shield or spear); to acquire, take hold of; to receive; to undertake; to affect, influence; to incite; to unlawfully influence a jury; to surround; to conceal, cover; to shelter; to protect; to comfort; to comprehend, understand) [and other forms],[1] from Old French embracer, embracier (to kiss) (modern French embrasser (to kiss; (dated) to embrace, hug)), from Late Latin *imbracchiāre, from in- (prefix meaning ‘in, inside, within’)) + bracchium (arm). The English word is analysable as em- +‎ brace.[2][3]

The noun is derived from the verb.[4]


  • IPA(key): /ɛmˈbɹeɪs/, /ɪmˈbɹeɪs/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪs
  • Hyphenation: em‧brace


embrace (third-person singular simple present embraces, present participle embracing, simple past and past participle embraced)

  1. (transitive) To clasp (someone or each other) in the arms with affection; to take in the arms; to hug.
    Synonyms: fall on someone's neck; see also Thesaurus:embrace
    • 1576, Iohannes Caius [i.e., John Caius], “Dogges of a Course Kind Seruing for Many Necessary Uses, Called in Latine Canes Rustici, and First of the Shepherds Dogge, Called in Latine Canis Pastoralis”, in Abraham Fleming, transl., Of Englishe Dogges, the Diuersities, the Names, the Natures, and the Properties. [], imprinted at London: By [John Charlewood for] Rychard Johnes, [], OCLC 1121314616; republished London: Printed by A. Bradley, [], 1880, OCLC 669210085, page 31:
      There was no faynting faith in that Dogge, which when his Master by a mischaunce in hunting stumbled and fell toppling downe a deepe dytche beyng vnable to recouer of himselfe, the Dogge signifying his masters mishappe, reskue came, and he was hayled up by a rope, whom the Dogge seeying almost drawne up to the edge of the dytche, cheerefully saluted, leaping and skipping vpon his master as though he would haue imbraced hym, beying glad of his presence, whose longer absence he was lothe to lacke.
    • c. 1597, [William Shakespeare], The History of Henrie the Fovrth; [], quarto edition, London: [] P[eter] S[hort] for Andrew Wise, [], published 1598, OCLC 932916628, [Act V, scene ii]:
      I will imbrace him with a ſouldiour's arme, / That he ſhall ſhrinke vnder my curteſie, [...]
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], OCLC 964384981, Acts 20:1, column 1:
      And after the vprore was ceaſed, Paul called vnto him the diſciples, and imbraced them, & departed, for to go into Macedonia.
    • 1644, J[ohn] M[ilton], chapter VI, in The Doctrine or Discipline of Divorce: [], 2nd edition, London: [s.n.], OCLC 868004604, book I, page 14:
      [...] Love, though not wholly blind, as Poets wrong him, yet having but one eye, as being born an Archer aiming, and that eye not the quickeſt in this dark region here below, which is not Loves proper ſphere, partly out of the ſimplicity, and credulity which is native to him, often deceiv'd, imbraces and comforts him with theſe obvious and ſuborned ſtriplings, as if they were his Mothers own Sons, for ſo he thinks them, while they ſuttly keep themſelves moſt on his blind ſide.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book IV”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, OCLC 230729554, lines 772–774:
      Theſe lulld by Nightingales imbraceing ſlept, / And on thir naked limbs the flourie roof / Showrd Roſes, which the Morn, repair'd.
    • 1686, [formerly attributed to Augustine of Hippo], “The Accusation of Man, and the Commendation and Praise of the Divine Mercy”, in [John Floyd], transl., The Meditations, Soliloquia, and Manual of the Glorious Doctor St. Augustine. Translated into English, London: Printed for Matthew Turner [], OCLC 221918224, page 6:
      Thou doſt reduce me when I err; thou ſtayeſt for me when I am dull; thou imbraceſt me when I return; thou teacheſt me when I am ignorant; [...]
    • 1843 December 19, Charles Dickens, “Stave Two. The First of the Three Spirits.”, in A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, London: Chapman & Hall, [], OCLC 55746801, page 54:
      She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head; but being too little, laughed again, and stood on tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag him, in her childish eagerness, towards the door; and he, nothing loth to go, accompanied her.
    • 1982, Lawrence Durrell, “Tu Duc Revisited”, in Constance: Or Solitary Practices: A Novel, London: Faber and Faber, →ISBN; republished New York, N.Y.: Viking Press, 1982, →ISBN, page 261:
      There was no ambiguity in her relief and enthusiasm; she went up to him in a somewhat irresolute fashion, as if about to put out her hand; but they embraced instead, and stood for a moment yoked thus, absurdly relieved and delighted by the other’s presence.
    • 1990, J[ohn] M[axwell] Coetzee, chapter 1, in Age of Iron, London: Secker and Warburg, →ISBN, page 5; republished London: Penguin Books, 2015, →ISBN:
      We embrace to be embraced. We embrace our children to be folded in the arms of the future, to pass ourselves beyond death, to be transported. That is how it was when I embraced you, always.
  2. (transitive, figuratively) To seize (something) eagerly or with alacrity; to accept or take up with cordiality; to welcome.
    I wholeheartedly embrace the new legislation.
  3. (transitive, figuratively) To submit to; to undergo.
    Synonym: accept
    • c. 1597, [William Shakespeare], The History of Henrie the Fovrth; [], quarto edition, London: [] P[eter] S[hort] for Andrew Wise, [], published 1598, OCLC 932916628, [Act V, scene v]:
      What I haue done my ſafety vrg'd me to: / And I embrace this fortune patiently, / Since not to be auoided it fals on me.
    • 2020 April 22, Paul Stephen, “COVID-19: meet the railway heroes”, in Rail, page 40:
      Faced with the most significant public health crisis in a century, the population has largely embraced the strict but essential government instructions on social distancing that have been carefully designed to protect lives and to curb the spread of COVID-19.
  4. (transitive, also figuratively) To encircle; to enclose, to encompass.
    Synonyms: entwine, surround
    • 1642, John Denham, “Coopers Hill”, in Poems and Translations, with the Sophy. [], 4th edition, Printed by T. W. for H[enry] Herringman and sold by Jacob Tonson [], and Thomas Bennet [], published 1703, OCLC 740856761, page 14:
      Low at his foot a ſpacious Plain is plac't, / Between the Mountain and the Stream embrac't: / Which ſhade and ſhelter from the Hill derives, / While the kind River Wealth and Beauty gives; [...]
    • 1937, Robert Byron, “Gumbad-i-Kabus (200 ft.), April 24th”, in The Road to Oxiana, London: Macmillan & Co., OCLC 776568094, part V, page 228:
      But it was not this that conveyed the size of the steppe so much as the multiplicity of these nomadic encampments, cropping up wherever the eye rested, yet invariably separate by a mile or two from their neighbours. There were hundreds of them, and the sight, therefore, seemed to embrace hundreds of miles.
  5. (transitive, figuratively) To enfold, to include (ideas, principles, etc.); to encompass.
    Natural philosophy embraces many sciences.
  6. (transitive, obsolete, rare) To fasten on, as armour.
  7. (transitive, figuratively, obsolete) To accept (someone) as a friend; to accept (someone's) help gladly.
  8. (transitive, law, figuratively, obsolete) To attempt to influence (a court, jury, etc.) corruptly; to practise embracery.


Alternative formsEdit

Derived termsEdit



embrace (plural embraces)

  1. An act of putting arms around someone and bringing the person close to the chest; a hug.
  2. (figuratively) An enclosure partially or fully surrounding someone or something.
  3. (figuratively) Full acceptance (of something).
  4. (figuratively) An act of enfolding or including.
    • 1913 November, Rabindranath Tagore, “The Relation of the Individual to the Universe”, in Sādhanā: The Realisation of Life, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, OCLC 1114470, page 8:
      In India men are enjoined to be fully awake to the fact that they are in the closest relation to things around them, body and soul, and that they are to hail the morning sun, the flowing water, the fruitful earth, as the manifestation of the same living truth which holds them in its embrace.

Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ From the collection of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.


  1. ^ embrācen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ embrace, v.2”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1891; “embrace, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  3. ^ Compare “† embrace, v.1”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1891; “embrace, v.3”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1891; “† embrace, v.4”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1891.
  4. ^ embrace, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1891; “embrace, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

Further readingEdit




  1. First-person singular (yo) present subjunctive form of embrazar.
  2. Formal second-person singular (usted) present subjunctive form of embrazar.
  3. Third-person singular (él, ella, also used with usted?) present subjunctive form of embrazar.
  4. Formal second-person singular (usted) imperative form of embrazar.