Skip to Content

How are Imbed and Embed Different? How Are They Similar?

How are Imbed and Embed Different? How Are They Similar?

The English language has multiple words meaning the same thing or close to the same thing. But such terms usually have nothing else similar, or the ones with comparable spellings and pronunciations are likely to mean different things. That, however, isn’t the case with “imbed” and “embed”.

“Imbed” and “embed” denote “firmly placing a thing into something”. They just have a minor difference in spelling. “Embed” is the more common term, having birthed “embedded”. “Imbedded” is not considered a proper word, as in there are no “imbedded” solutions, i.e., if you know your microprocessors.

There is no need to panic if you’re stuck between “imbed” and “embed”. You can use them interchangeably. Though the similarity might make these confusing words, you can choose our preferred term, as we learn why that is the case and more.

“Imbed”, “Embed” – A Brief Introduction

embed sign in green

“Imbed/embed” are verbs that mean, as mentioned above, “firmly positioning a thing into something”. “Imbed” is considered the less common or alternative spelling of “embed”. Synonyms or related words for “embed” include “enroot”, “entrench”, “bed”, “implant”, “ingrain”, and “engrain”, to name a few.

P.S. Since “imbed” is the other or less preferred spelling of “embed”, the remainder of this article will employ only “embed” and not “imbed”.

The Various Meanings/Uses of “Embed”

Based on the context or topic in hand, “embed” could assume slightly different meanings or be used in texts differently. For example, in microscopy, “embed” or “embedding” denotes “infiltrating a specimen and enclosing it after adding in a substance”.

In computers and the web, “embed” means “inserting a media file (video, audio, graphics, etc.) into a digital document. For example:

  • Marketers embed adverts in their mailing-list messages to connect with their target audiences.
  • The company allows users to embed audio and video attachments in their email messages.

“Embed” could also mean “merging groups” to share knowledge, experience, and expertise between them. The term can also denote “surrounding closely” – for example, “The pulp embedded the seed.”

“Embed” is not always physical. It could also relate to one’s thoughts, opinions, emotions, etc. For example, a particular set of political ideas or views could be deeply “embedded” into a person, changing their attitude or behavior toward others in the process.

On a related note, “embedded” commonly features in terms, such as “embedded solutions” and “embedded journalism”. Though “imbedded” is proper English, “imbedded solutions” is not a valid term.

The Origins of “Imbed” and “Embed”

Both spelling variants have been around or a part of Modern or New English since the 18th century. The verb “imbed” was supposedly first used in 1778 in print. “Embed” showed up for the first time in a book published in 1794. However, for some reason, “embed” has become the more preferred term of the two.

Why Do “Imbed” and “Embed” Exist as Individual Terms

If “imbed” and “embed” mean the same thing, and have the same meaning why do they exist as different words, you may ask – particularly when you consider the two have almost the same spellings. To understand why it’s essential to have a basic understanding of how the prefixes “im-” and “in-” work in conjunction.

The “im-” prefix is commonly used to substitute “in-” in certain words, particularly when the term begins with the letter “b” or “m”. “Embed”, for instance, starts with “b” if its prefix “em-” is discounted.

In the case of “imbed” and “embed”, however, “im-” is used instead of “em-” and not “in-“. That’s because the “em-” itself substituted “in-” in the word. The “em-” version has been in use in Middle English only since the 14th century. Prior to that, it may have been “inbed” or have some other spelling.

What is the “Embed” Code?

When discussing “embed”, not talking about or even touching upon “embed code” is borderline blasphemy.

An “embed code” is essentially a piece of HTML code created by third-party websites for users to copy and paste into their own websites. The code would then show the media or feed on the user’s website as it shows on the original site.

Embed codes can be small snippets or longer based on the functionality they provide. YouTube codes, for instance, are relatively short and straightforward. The codes provided by video hosting services, however, tend to be lengthier.

Inserting an embed code in a web page is as simple as copying the provider’s code and pasting it into a page from the site’s backend or through the destination website’s content management system.

The web and personal computing space has contributed significantly in cementing the status or more widespread usage of “embed”. In case you were wondering, there’s no term as “imbed code”.

embedded sign surrounded by words

“Embedding” Clauses

Discussing the verb from the “generative grammar” side of things, “embed” or “embedding” signifies the process through which a clause is included in another clause. The process is also referred to as nesting.

In the following sentence, there are two “embedded” clauses:

  • Tom said that Mary wrote the letter.

The entire sentence is the root clause. However, it has a secondary clause embedded: the “that Mary wrote the letter” part.

Not every two clauses can be embedded and made to read like one cohesive sentence. The two clauses that come together should have something in common, for starters. For example:

  • Tom found the phone. Sylvia had left the phone in the kitchen and completely forgot about it.

The two sentences can be merged as:

  • Tom found the phone that Sylvia had left in the kitchen and completely forgotten about.

The following two sentences, however, cannot be “embedded”, as they are two completely different sentences or don’t seem to fall in the same category of discussion:

  • She likes Chinese food. He plays basketball in the evening.

How do you marry the two? “She likes Chinese food because he plays basketball in the evening” is “bollocks” (pardon the swear) or makes no sense at all.

“Embedding” More Than Two Clauses

Things can, however, get even worse when people try to club together more than two sentences or clauses. These are sentences that usually run into multiple lines or look like a paragraph on their own. For example:

  • John was helping Mark with his coding project, as Mark was down with a fever and had requested Jacqueline to book an appointment with his regular doctor, who supposedly was not available for the next three days.

Instead of combining the various clauses as one sentence, break it down to two to three sentences for readability’s sake. The above “paragraph-like” sentence can be broken down as:

  • John was helping Mark with his coding project, as Mark was down with a fever. Mark requested Jacqueline to book an appointment with his regular doctor. But the doctor was supposedly not available for the next three days.

A long sentence is not necessarily “incorrect” English. Some writers, with pedigree and who have authored several best-selling books, could employ such lengthy constructs. Merging two or more sentences into one may come naturally to them.

William Faulkner, the American writer, once held the world record for the longest run-on sentence, consisting of 1,288 words. And unsurprisingly, he is not the only writer to use an obscene number of words in one sentence.

To pull off a sentence with three or more clauses requires skill, let alone writing a sentence with several hundred clauses. It’s still recommended to keep your sentences short, even if your writing skills are on par with Faulkner.

Merge or “embed” two or more clauses only if they read well, or writing them as individual sentences seem choppy.

Example Sentences with the Term “Imbed”

Though “imbed” is not as commonly used as “embed” and can be seamlessly substituted with “embed”, you may still use “imbed” in your texts, like in the following sentences:

  • Handmade soaps have imbedded shapes in them.
  • They wanted to imbed designs that were a lot more intricate.
  • The tech behemoth succeeded in its plans to imbed itself into the power structure.

Of course, you may replace “imbed” with “embed” in the above sentences.

Example Sentences with the Word “Embed”

The following are sentences that incorporate the term “embed” and its variations, including “embedded” and “embedding”:

  • Embedding global competence into schools and learning, in general, is not that straightforward.
  • The fossils were embedded in the stone.
  • The particular community has prejudices embedded in them.
  • The arrow was embedded into the wall.
  • The crystals are later embedded in the plastic.
  • The idea remained embedded in her mind.
  • Celebrations and ceremonies are embedded in the psyche of the people in the region.
  • Her name will forever be embedded in people’s minds.
  • One solution is embedding the neural network into the system.
  • A sense of shame was embedded deeply in her conscience.

Imbedded vs Embedded

Imbedded is the past tense of imbed, same as Embeded is for embed and we will use them as explained above.


statue embedded in tree

“Imbed” and “embed” aren’t the only two words with similar meanings and spellings. “Enquire” and “inquire“, for instance, are two other terms that share their meanings and pretty much their spellings too.

Words with similar spellings and the same meanings may evolve to assume varying connotations, moving apart from each other’s intended meanings in the process. The difference in definitions of “ensure” and “insure”, for example, did develop over a period.

In the case of “imbed” and “embed”, however, such developments did not take place (yet). But, as mentioned above, “embed” is the more commonly used word of the two.