noun, often attributive
break·​through | \ ˈbrāk-ˌthrü How to pronounce breakthrough (audio) \

Definition of breakthrough

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 warfare : an offensive military assault that penetrates and carries beyond a defensive line
2 : an act or instance of moving through or beyond an obstacle a breakthrough in the talks between the region's leaders a breakthrough agreement
3a : a sudden advance especially in knowledge or technique a medical breakthrough
b : a person's first notable success a breakthrough novel the actress's breakthrough performance

break through

broke through; broken through; breaking through; breaks through

Definition of break through (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to make a breakthrough

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Synonyms & Antonyms for breakthrough

Synonyms: Noun

advance, advancement, enhancement, improvement, refinement

Antonyms: Noun


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Examples of breakthrough in a Sentence


Researchers say they have made a major breakthrough in cancer treatment. The police have announced a breakthrough in the murder case. This job could be the breakthrough she's been waiting for.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Both schools had a breakthrough in the second half of the season, pulling off multiple upsets despite the Big Ten being its strongest in years. Molly Geary,, "Big Ten Offseason Report: Power Rankings and Burning Questions for 2019-20," 16 July 2019 More on the 49ers His agent, Brian Mackler, and 49ers executive Paraag Marathe had worked on a deal for months and reached a breakthrough Sunday by installing an option clause, ESPN reported. Tom Fitzgerald,, "Robbie Gould lands 4-year, $19 million deal from 49ers after all," 15 July 2019 The network promises there’ll be plenty of shenanigans, emotional breakthroughs, and romance to be had. Ew Staff,, "What to Watch on Monday: Hannah tries to figure out Luke P.'s intentions on The Bachelorette," 15 July 2019 India’s past successes have come from low-cost, homegrown technology that have been instrumental in breakthroughs such as discovering water on the surface of the moon. Niha Masih, Washington Post, "New Delhi, we have a problem: India calls off lunar mission an hour before launch," 15 July 2019 There was Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's semifinal blockbuster, Coco Gauff's breakthrough and Serena Williams and Andy Murray played mixed doubles. Ravi Ubha, CNN, "Djokovic saves match points, beats Federer in historic Wimbledon final," 14 July 2019 And then there’s everything in between — adventure, breakthroughs, to intentions being set, to bonding to having some fun. Kimberly Wilson, Essence, "Mýa Sets Sail On Her ‘Girls Cruise’ And Spills The Tea On What Really Went Down," 12 July 2019 Quick Hits + Broncos Position Preview: A breakthrough for tight ends? Joe Nguyen, The Denver Post, "Raekwon Davis to Broncos? Albert Breer NFL mock draft sends Alabama defensive lineman to Denver.," 12 July 2019 Emojis and bitcoins are no substitute for breakthroughs such as jet engines or the internet. The Economist, "America’s expansion is now the longest on record," 11 July 2019

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

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First Known Use of breakthrough


1915, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1946, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for breakthrough

Last Updated

19 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for breakthrough

The first known use of breakthrough was in 1915

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More Definitions for breakthrough



English Language Learners Definition of breakthrough

: a sudden increase in knowledge, understanding, etc. : an important discovery that happens after trying for a long time to understand or explain something
: a person's first important success


break·​through | \ ˈbrāk-ˌthrü How to pronounce breakthrough (audio) \

Kids Definition of breakthrough

: a sudden advance or successful development a breakthrough in medical research

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Comments on breakthrough

What made you want to look up breakthrough? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


characterized by aphorism

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