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

But with an abundance of world class midfielders standing between him and a breakthrough onto the Premier League scene, 90min understands that Dele-Bashiru will seek pastures new at the expiry of his contract., "Exclusive: Tom Dele-Bashiru to Become Latest Academy Prospect to Walk Away From Man City," 17 June 2019 Gene patenting isn’t the horror that Michael Crichton imagined, but neither is the race for patents the key motivator for genetic breakthroughs. Faye Flam, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: Corporations shouldn’t be able to patent your DNA," 16 June 2019 In 2017, 32-year-old Isabelle Ronin reached a similarly unexpected career breakthrough, thanks to Wattpad. Elena Nicolaou,, "How To Write A Book On Your Phone & Get 1 Billion Readers & A Movie Deal," 15 June 2019 But at this point, even a breakthrough US-China trade deal might not be enough to deter the supply chain changes afoot. Gwynn Guilford, Quartz, "The trade war is already pushing businesses out of China—and it could be permanent," 14 June 2019 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting Iran this week and is expected to try to de-escalate tensions between Tehran and Washington, though any significant breakthrough is unlikely. Fox News, "'Highly likely Iran is responsible' for oil tanker attack in Gulf of Oman, US defense official says," 13 June 2019 Now in a full-time MENCS ride, Hemric is trending in the right direction after five top-20 finishes in his last seven races and a breakthrough to a top-25 place in the points. Jason Hoffman,, "A month away from the Quaker State 400, something different brewing at Kentucky Speedway," 12 June 2019 Then, in May of last year, Washington officials announced a breakthrough. Megan Molteni, WIRED, "The First Murder Case to Use Family Tree Forensics Goes to Trial," 10 June 2019 SpaceX and Boeing continue sending astronauts skyward (and reap the public rewards for delivering astronauts and famous people to the station), but its the new generation of manufacturing breakthroughs that will really change everything. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "A 10-Year Odyssey: What Space Stations Will Look Like in 2030," 10 June 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

21 Jun 2019

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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 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

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