adjective bru·tal \ ˈbrü-tᵊl \
|Updated on: 18 Jul 2018

Definition of brutal

1 archaic : typical of beasts : animal
  • thee, Serpent … to me so friendly grown above the rest of brutal kind
  • —John Milton
2 : suitable to one who lacks intelligence, sensitivity, or compassion : befitting a brute: such as
a : grossly ruthless or unfeeling
  • a brutal slander
b : cruel, cold-blooded
  • a brutal attack
c : harsh, severe
  • brutal weather
d : unpleasantly accurate and incisive
  • the brutal truth
e : very bad or unpleasant
  • a brutal mistake


play \-tᵊl-ē\ adverb

Examples of brutal in a Sentence

  1. Sailors sometimes faced brutal punishments like whipping.

  2. a brutal struggle for survival in the wilderness

  3. The writer describes the dangers of drugs with brutal honesty.

  4. The movie is a brutal depiction of the war.

  5. The traffic was brutal on the way to work.

  6. I had a brutal headache this morning.

Recent Examples of brutal from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of brutal

Middle English, from Middle French or Medieval Latin; Middle French, from Medieval Latin brutalis, from Latin brutus — more at brute

Synonym Discussion of brutal

brutal, brutish, bestial, feral mean characteristic of an animal in nature, action, or instinct. brutal applies to people, their acts, or their words and suggests a lack of intelligence, feeling, or humanity.
    • a senseless and brutal war
brutish stresses likeness to an animal in low intelligence, in base appetites, and in behavior based on instinct.
    • brutish stupidity
bestial suggests a state of degradation unworthy of humans and fit only for beasts.
    • bestial depravity
feral suggests the savagery or ferocity of wild animals.
    • the struggle to survive unleashed their feral impulses

BRUTAL Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of brutal for English Language Learners

  • : extremely cruel or harsh

  • : very direct and accurate in a way that is harsh or unpleasant

  • : very bad or unpleasant

BRUTAL Defined for Kids


adjective bru·tal \ ˈbrü-tᵊl \

Definition of brutal for Students

: cruel and harsh
  • brutal treatment



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