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 But a popular interview with reluctant Boston Celtics star Dave Cowens soon earned her a three-year deal and paved the way to her breakthrough role the next year on The NFL Today. Dallas News, "Denton native Phyllis George, an 'ultimate trailblazer’ for female sportscasters, dies at 70," 17 May 2020 The discovery marks an incredible breakthrough as scientists race to learn more about the blue bee, which is currently listed by Florida's State Wildlife Action Plan as a species of greatest conservation need. Alaa Elassar, CNN, "A rare blue bee scientists thought might have become extinct has been rediscovered in Florida," 16 May 2020 The coronavirus will hasten three big medical breakthroughs. Bill Gates, The Economist, "The world after covid-19 Bill Gates on how to fight future pandemics," 23 Apr. 2020 His breakthrough book, published in 1965, chronicled the history and bleak future of African wildlife, in particular the plight of elephants at Tsavo East National Park. Norman Vanamee, Town & Country, "Peter Beard Romanced Lee Radziwill and Partied with the Rolling Stones. He Was a True Original.," 20 Apr. 2020 Warhol’s final breakthrough into ’60s Pop came through an accidental inspiration from a minor dealer on the New York scene named Muriel Latow. Blake Gopnik, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Andy Warhol Came to Paint Campbell’s Soup Cans," 16 Apr. 2020 Jenner’s breakthrough paved the way for vaccines that today prevent widespread epidemics of a variety of diseases, including influenza, measles, polio, rabies, tetanus, typhoid, yellow fever, and cervical cancer. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 8 Apr. 2020 Exploring stateside events that were major news in China, Shi's film — which received a special SXSW jury prize for breakthrough voice — is a sensitively told true-crime story. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Finding Yingying': Film Review | SXSW 2020," 27 Mar. 2020 Trump’s approach has frequently confounded the efforts of the rest of the team by overselling breakthroughs that have to be walked back quietly by his experts. Rob Crilly, Washington Examiner, "'What do we have to lose?': Hope and science vie for dominance at White House coronavirus briefings," 21 Mar. 2020

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

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Breakthrough.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 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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