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

Antonyms: Noun

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Examples of breakthrough in a Sentence

Noun 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 Think of this time as the incubator of creativity, a pitstop before the new beginning, and the break required for breakthrough. NBC News, "Dr. Robin Smith on COVID-19 isolation: Remember, 'Alone, but not all alone'," 18 May 2020 President Donald Trump in January heralded the deal — which reduced some tariffs and allowed Beijing to avoid additional taxes on almost $160 billion of the country's goods — as a significant breakthrough. Laura He, CNN, "Global stocks rise as US and China play nice on trade," 8 May 2020 Further Reading Inside Electrify America’s plan to simplify electric car charging Change hasn’t met expectations in the consumer market, but even that is finally poised for a major breakthrough. Nathaniel Horadam, Ars Technica, "Are electric vehicles doomed? We don’t think so, despite poor sales," 27 Apr. 2020 But the potential for a breakthrough in China-U.S. relations is not great at the moment. CBS News, "Transcript: John McLaughlin speaks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"," 22 Apr. 2020 Word of Libby’s breakthrough reached a New Zealand physicist named Athol Rafter. Carl Zimmer, The Atlantic, "Nuclear Tests Marked Life on Earth With a Radioactive Spike," 20 Mar. 2020 Sayagues worked with Alvarez on the latter’s breakthrough short film, Panic Attack!, which set them on the path to Hollywood. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Don't Breathe' Sequel Finds Its Director," 17 Jan. 2020 However despite largely leading playoff charges in 2017 and 2018, injuries had forced Wentz to give way to former backup Nick Foles in both seasons, including the club’s breakthrough Super Bowl LII victory. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "Eagles QB Carson Wentz knocked out of playoff game with head injury," 5 Jan. 2020 This is a breakthrough therapy for people with cystic fibrosis. The Washington Post, oregonlive, "Long-awaited cystic fibrosis drug could turn deadly disease into a manageable condition," 31 Oct. 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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Time Traveler for breakthrough

Time Traveler

The first known use of breakthrough was in 1915

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Statistics for breakthrough

Last Updated

6 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Breakthrough.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for breakthrough


How to pronounce break through (audio)

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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