brit·​tle | \ ˈbri-tᵊl How to pronounce brittle (audio) \
brittler\ ˈbrit-​lər How to pronounce brittle (audio) , ˈbri-​tᵊl-​ər \; brittlest\ ˈbrit-​ləst How to pronounce brittle (audio) , ˈbri-​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

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Other Words from brittle


brittlely \ ˈbri-​tᵊl-​(l)ē How to pronounce brittle (audio) \ adverb
brittleness \ ˈbri-​tᵊl-​nəs How to pronounce brittle (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for brittle

Synonyms: Adjective

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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

Examples of brittle in a Sentence

Adjective a brittle cracker that turned into crumbs in my pocket a brittle apology that was anything but heartfelt
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Astronauts also tend to have swelled heads, squashed eyeballs, shriveled legs and bones that become more brittle. New York Times, "Note to Future Space Travelers: Prepare for a Shrinking Heart," 29 Mar. 2021 The logic behind it is that the gum will become brittle and be easier to break off while leaving the hair intact. Laura Wheatman Hill,, "How to get gum out of hair," 14 Mar. 2021 Osteoporosis: Bones can become more brittle as people age. Sheryl Jean, Dallas News, "Regular health tests can prolong your life," 22 Feb. 2021 The cold water can make the pipes contract and become more brittle, officials said. Cameron Knight, The Enquirer, "Why are water mains breaking across the city? Blame the cold river.," 18 Feb. 2021 At the time of the recording, her hair had been in the same style for a month, and her hair had become brittle to the point that the former texture was impossible to detect. Stephanie Toone, ajc, "NEW: Viral Tiktoker gives update on Gorilla Glue hair dilemma in new interview," 8 Feb. 2021 Photography’s profoundest limitation is its mechanistic nature, which can bind it to a literalness and a brittle understanding of time. Washington Post, "This photographer transcends his medium — by turning day into night and past into present," 21 Apr. 2021 Overhead, a steady stream of people walked through a maze of indoor skyways that dissect downtown, offering respite from the brittle Minnesota air. Los Angeles Times, "Minneapolis and the nation lauded Chauvin’s verdict. But what’s next in movement for racial justice?," 21 Apr. 2021 When your package of corn tortillas gets too stale and brittle to use any other way, turn those sad rounds into a happy opportunity by making tortilla crumbs. Casey Barber, CNN, "Eat like an astronaut (or a TikTok star) with these tortilla hacks," 14 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In the Hualapai Mountains in Arizona, officials ordered the evacuation this week of 200 homes as screeching winds propelled flames through forests of brittle-dry pines. New York Times, "‘Firefighters Out There in the Snow’: Wildfires Rage Early in Parched West," 30 Apr. 2021 But too much can make a blade brittle, reducing toughness. T. Edward Nickens, Field & Stream, "How to Pick the Best Knife Steel," 5 Mar. 2021 The butter in the recipe will keep the brittle from sticking. Anna Caplan, Dallas News, "Sheet pan cookies: How to make easy, crunchy cookie brittle at home," 18 Dec. 2020 Cookie brittle may be the next trend, with even Betty Crocker on board. Anna Caplan, Dallas News, "Sheet pan cookies: How to make easy, crunchy cookie brittle at home," 18 Dec. 2020 Prewar buildings can be nearly bombproof, but their cast-iron sewers are full of corrosion, their brass plumbing brittle and cracked. Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker, "The Art of Building the Impossible," 23 Nov. 2020 Like a brittle, collapsing balloon, Mercury’s surface may have been destabilized by the gas’s rapid exit, generating craters, peaks and fractures that still exist on Mercury today, reports Shannon Hall for the New York Times. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Mercury’s Messy Surface May Have Once Had Crucial Ingredients for Life," 24 Mar. 2020 Fan favorites The most addictive is the brittles, the cashew and peanut. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Waterford woman channels her children's creativity into Three Lil’ Bakesters, a growing sweets business," 30 Jan. 2020 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

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.

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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

Adjective and Noun

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

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Time Traveler for brittle

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for brittle

Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Brittle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce brittle (audio) \
brittler; brittlest

Kids Definition of brittle

: hard but easily broken brittle glass

Other Words from brittle

brittleness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for brittle

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.


brit·​tle | \ ˈbrit-ᵊl How to pronounce brittle (audio) \

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

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