adjective \ ə-ˈbrəpt \
|Updated on: 19 Jul 2018

Definition of abrupt

1 a : characterized by or involving action or change without preparation or warning : sudden and unexpected
  • came to an abrupt stop
  • an abrupt turn
  • an abrupt decision to retire
b : rudely or unceremoniously curt
  • She has an abrupt manner.
  • an abrupt reply
c : lacking smoothness or continuity
  • an abrupt transition
2 : giving the impression of being cut or broken off; especially : involving a sudden steep rise or drop
  • abrupt hills
  • a high abrupt bank bounded the stream


play \ə-ˈbrəp(t)-lē\ adverb
    • ended the meeting abruptly


play \ə-ˈbrəp(t)-nəs\ noun

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Examples of abrupt in a Sentence

  1. There was an abrupt change in the weather.

  2. The road came to an abrupt end.

  3. The storm caused an abrupt power failure.

  4. She has an abrupt manner.

Recent Examples of abrupt from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abrupt.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

We’ll break it to you gently: abrupt derives from abruptus, the past participle of the Latin verb abrumpere, meaning "to break off." Abrumpere combines the prefix ab- with rumpere, which means "break" and which forms the basis for several other words in English that suggest a kind of breaking, such as interrupt, rupture, and bankrupt. Whether being used to describe a style of speaking that seems rudely short (as in "gave an abrupt answer"), something with a severe rise or drop ("abrupt climate change"), or something that seems rash and unprecipitated ("made the abrupt decision to quit college"), abrupt, which first appeared in English in the 16th century, implies a kind of jarring unexpectedness that catches people off guard.

Origin and Etymology of abrupt

borrowed from Latin abruptus "steep, sheer, broken or cut off too short," from past participle of abrumpere "to break, rupture, break off short," from ab- ab- + rumpere "to cause to break or burst," going back to Indo-European *ru-n-p-, nasal present formation from the base *reu̯p- "break, tear" — more at reave

Synonym Discussion of abrupt

precipitate, headlong, abrupt, impetuous, sudden mean showing undue haste or unexpectedness. precipitate stresses lack of due deliberation and implies prematureness of action.
    • the army's precipitate withdrawal
headlong stresses rashness and lack of forethought.
    • a headlong flight from arrest
abrupt stresses curtness and a lack of warning or ceremony.
    • an abrupt refusal
impetuous stresses extreme impatience or impulsiveness.
    • an impetuous lover proposing marriage
sudden stresses unexpectedness and sharpness or violence of action.
    • flew into a sudden rage
steep, abrupt, precipitous, sheer mean having an incline approaching the perpendicular. steep implies such sharpness of pitch that ascent or descent is very difficult.
    • a steep hill
    • a steep dive
abrupt implies a sharper pitch and a sudden break in the level.
    • a beach with an abrupt drop-off
precipitous applies to an incline approaching the vertical.
    • the river winds through a precipitous gorge
sheer suggests an unbroken perpendicular expanse.
    • sheer cliffs that daunted the climbers

ABRUPT Defined for Kids


adjective \ ə-ˈbrəpt \

Definition of abrupt for Students

1 : happening without warning : sudden
  • The meeting came to an abrupt end.
2 : 1steep 1
  • an abrupt drop
3 : rudely brief
  • an abrupt reply





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one who attends or assists a leader

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