noun, often attributive
break·through | \ ˈbrāk-ˌthrü \

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


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

For the generation of Hazard, De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, beating Brazil in the quarter-finals was meant to be the breakthrough on route to winning a major tournament. Kieran Canning,, "Umtiti heads France into World Cup final as Belgium fall short," 10 July 2018 While the victory over the Lakers was a breakthrough for Robinson, returning wing Derrick Jones Jr. continued to thrive in this first summer stint with the Heat. Ira Winderman,, "Undrafted Michigan forward Duncan Robinson making Heat case in summer league," 4 July 2018 For Denmark, a spot in the second round is a breakthrough. Kevin Baxter,, "World Cup: France and Denmark achieve goal without scoring one," 26 June 2018 The judge's ruling was a major breakthrough in Drummond's libel case not only against Collingsworth but also Scherer's firm. Jay Weaver, miamiherald, "Top Florida law firm accused of stiffing rich client and paying bribes to witnesses | Miami Herald," 11 May 2018 This one is closer to a true four-year deal with two options, which is a breakthrough for players. Albert Breer,, "Pat Shurmur Believes In Eli Manning. Will the Giants Believe Too?," 10 May 2018 That was actually a big breakthrough for me with a lot of the songs on this record, thinking about what matches the lyric rather than just making a drop for the sake of a drop. David Rishty, Billboard, "Felix Cartal Breaks Down His 18-Track Album 'Next Season': Exclusive," 4 May 2018 The first Deadpool was a massive breakthrough when it was released in 2016. Yohana Desta, HWD, "Celine Dion and Deadpool Are a Match Made in Melodramatic Heaven," 3 May 2018 This was a major medical breakthrough, but doctors quickly realized that fasting is not a sustainable long term solution for anyone (people require food to live, after all)., "The Ketogenic Diet Was Never Supposed To Be A Trend — But Here We Are," 3 May 2018

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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Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

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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 \

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).


alleviating pain or harshness

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