: 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
: rudely or unceremoniously curt
She has an abrupt manner.
an abrupt reply
: lacking smoothness or continuity
an abrupt transition
: 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
abruptness noun

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 "to 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 temperature 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.

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of abrupt in a Sentence

There was an abrupt change in the weather. The road came to an abrupt end. The storm caused an abrupt power failure. She has an abrupt manner.
Recent Examples on the Web The abrupt closing, though, caught many off-guard, including the council, mayor and police who were not forewarned. Judith Prieve, The Mercury News, 18 Feb. 2024 Aggressive throttle, abrupt steering, and stabs at the brake pedal are met with spinning tires (or a slew of electronic aids reeling everything back in). Michael Harley, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2024 The Problem With Jon Stewart came to an abrupt end last October as Stewart and Apple parted ways weeks before the show’s third season was set to begin taping. Chris Morris, Fortune, 13 Feb. 2024 Sweeping and abrupt reforms put in place by bureaucracies that are immediate or near-term do not garner support from the majority of American working-class citizens, because there are very valid affordability, accessibility and reliability issues. Gillian Brassil, Sacramento Bee, 5 Feb. 2024 Which makes the enterprise subject to abrupt changes of fortune. Peter S. Goodman Bridget Bennett, New York Times, 5 Feb. 2024 Wendy Williams is breaking her silence on the personal, physical and financial battles that led to her abrupt exit from television. Esther Kang, Peoplemag, 2 Feb. 2024 That came to an abrupt end after Russia invaded Ukraine and cut off most of its supply. David McHugh and Matthew Daly, Quartz, 7 Feb. 2024 The move represented a reverse from the abrupt expansion of the field in 2021 from eight to 10 nominees. Anna Tingley, Variety, 4 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'abrupt.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of abrupt was in 1576


Dictionary Entries Near abrupt

Cite this Entry

“Abrupt.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abrupt. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: sudden sense 1a
an abrupt change in the weather
: rudely brief : curt
an abrupt manner
: steep entry 1 sense 1
the high abrupt bank of a stream
abruptly adverb
abruptness noun

from Latin abruptus "abrupt," derived from abrumpere "to break off," from ab- "from" and rumpere "to break" — related to corrupt, interrupt, rupture

Word Origin
If a person is rudely brief in speech or manner or stops you before you finish talking, you could say that that person is abrupt. If a road ends suddenly, you could say that the road comes to an abrupt end. In both of these cases you might think of something that is abrupt as "breaking off." Abrupt comes from the Latin word abruptus, meaning "broken off, ending suddenly." That word is formed (with the addition of the prefix ab-, meaning "from") from the Latin word rumpere, meaning "to break." Latin rumpere has given us several other English words that carry the idea of breaking: interrupt, rupture, and corrupt.

More from Merriam-Webster on abrupt

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