brit·​tle | \ˈbri-tᵊl \
brittler\ ˈbrit-​lər , ˈbri-​tᵊl-​ər \; brittlest\ -​ləst , -​tᵊl-​əst \

Definition of brittle 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : easily broken, cracked, or snapped brittle clay brittle glass

b : easily disrupted, overthrown, or damaged : frail a brittle friendship

3 : easily hurt or offended : sensitive a brittle personality

4 : sharp the brittle staccato of snare drums

5 : lacking warmth, depth, or generosity of spirit : cold a brittle selfish person

6 medical : affected with or being a form of type 1 diabetes characterized by large and unpredictable fluctuations in blood glucose level



Definition of brittle (Entry 2 of 2)

: a candy made with caramelized sugar and nuts spread in thin sheets peanut brittle

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from brittle


brittlely \ ˈbri-​tᵊl-​(l)ē \ adverb
brittleness \ ˈbri-​tᵊl-​nəs \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for brittle


fragile, frangible, brittle, crisp, friable mean breaking easily. fragile implies extreme delicacy of material or construction and need for careful handling. a fragile antique chair frangible implies susceptibility to being broken without implying weakness or delicacy. frangible stone used for paving brittle implies hardness together with lack of elasticity or flexibility or toughness. brittle bones crisp implies a firmness and brittleness desirable especially in some foods. crisp lettuce friable applies to substances that are easily crumbled or pulverized. friable soil


brittle, crisp, and fragile mean easily broken. brittle is used of something that is hard and dry. Brittle twigs snapped under our feet. crisp is used of something hard and dry but also fresh. These crackers are no longer crisp. fragile is used of anything so delicate that it may be broken easily. He held a piece of fragile china.

Examples of brittle in a Sentence


a brittle cracker that turned into crumbs in my pocket a brittle apology that was anything but heartfelt

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

And Chinese officials and many experts say that China’s influence over North Korea is more limited and brittle than Mr. Trump and other Western leaders seem to believe. Chris Buckley And Choe Sang-hun, New York Times, "Is Kim Jong-un Visiting Beijing? Online Video Fuels Speculation," 26 Mar. 2018 The Center City store carries everything from whole roasted mealworms to peanut-butter-and-chocolate cricket protein bars to mealworm coconut brittle to insect protein powder. Grace Dickinson,, "Beyond bugs: 12 unique (and strange) ingredients at Mom's Organic Market and what to do with them," 16 May 2018 Chinese cast iron, with 2 to 4 percent carbon, was more brittle than steel. Jonathan Schifman, Popular Mechanics, "The Entire History of Steel," 9 July 2018 Everyone in Seattle knew someone who had gotten divorced, or gained forty pounds in a year, or had a breakdown or a cold that turned into hospital-grade pneumonia, or just turned hollow and brittle and paranoid. Longreads, "Trying to Kill the Want," 20 June 2018 There is a feyness to it all, in the traditional sense of the term: a brittle glee rooted in the awareness that the end may be very close. Jonathan Wilson,, "Gareth Southgate Makes Own Luck in Guiding England to World Cup Semifinals," 10 July 2018 The brittle post-punk of War captured the nuclear tension of the early 1980s, while The Joshua Tree imbued its critiques of American foreign policy a half-decade later with a Reaganesque optimism about American potential. Jonathan Bradley, Billboard, "Dream Up the World You're Gonna Live In: How U2's 'Zooropa' Got the Future Wrong, 25 Years Later," 5 July 2018 But the movie studios shied away from its use because the stored film became too brittle. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "There Are Secrets in the Texas Theatre," 25 May 2018 As the engine gets older, the blades of the fan (scimitar shaped, hollow, and made of a titanium alloy) may become more brittle and begin to crack. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "How a cracked fan blade (probably) ended a decade of no US air travel fatalities," 18 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Dessert is perfectly pleasant: lemon poppy-seed cake with rhubarb and whipped crème fraîche, dark chocolate cake with peanut brittle and Toscanini’s excellent B3 ice cream (the star of the dish). Devra First,, "Why is one of Boston’s best new restaurants in Newton?," 30 Apr. 2018 Monica's Confection Connection will be at all three markets this week with a large selection of sweet treats including brittles, caramels, salted caramels, gummies and fudge. Steve Edwards, Anchorage Daily News, "Feed your Super Bowl party guests right with seafood from local markets," 31 Jan. 2018 Chipping your tooth on peanut brittle, getting a hitch in your get-a-long, or having your mother-in-law visit for the third time in one month are all legitimate reasons to have your heart sincerely blessed. Leslie Anne Tarabella,, "'Bless your heart' is a good thing," 10 Apr. 2018 The basket-fillers include ½-pound chocolate fudge Easter bunnies, gummies, caramels, salted caramels and a wide selection of brittles. Steve Edwards, Anchorage Daily News, "Easter treats are hopping to a farmers market near you," 21 Mar. 2018 The Triple Play Blizzard mixes soft-serve ice cream with caramel-coated peanuts, caramel popcorn brittle and chocolate chunks. Jennifer Mcclellan, azcentral, "Dairy Queen to sell baseball Blizzards on Opening Day in 15 lucky cities, and Phoenix is one of them," 28 Mar. 2018 Vietnamese caramel and pine nut brittle joined a succulent chunk of seabass in the fifth course. Domenica Bongiovanni, Indianapolis Star, "A new dinner with Indy's best chefs is selling out at $150 a plate. Here's why.," 19 Mar. 2018 Smitten Kitchen Everyday, by the award-winning blogger Deb Perelman, spans such clever, crowd-pleasing recipes as two-ingredient oat brittle, leek-and-feta savory pie, and pretzel linzer cookies. Emily Saladino, USA TODAY, "2017's best food and beverage books," 21 Dec. 2017 The recipe for candied almonds makes more than enough for the salad, and can also double as almond brittle, a handmade gift in itself. Birmingham Magazine,, "Enjoy Christmas citrus with these tasty recipes," 13 Dec. 2017

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

See More

First Known Use of brittle


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1892, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for brittle


Middle English britil; akin to Old English brēotan to break, Old Norse brjōta


see brittle entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about brittle

Statistics for brittle

Last Updated

30 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for brittle

The first known use of brittle was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for brittle



English Language Learners Definition of brittle

: easily broken or cracked

: not strong : easily damaged

: sharp in sound


brit·​tle | \ˈbri-tᵊl \
brittler; brittlest

Kids Definition of brittle

: hard but easily broken brittle glass

Other Words from brittle

brittleness noun


brit·​tle | \ˈbrit-ᵊl \

Medical Definition of brittle 

: affected with or being a form of type 1 diabetes characterized by large and unpredictable fluctuations in blood glucose level brittle diabetes a brittle diabetic

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on brittle

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


by force of circumstances

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!