bru·​tal | \ ˈbrü-tᵊl How to pronounce brutal (audio) \

Definition of brutal

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

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Other Words from brutal

brutally \ ˈbrü-​tᵊl-​ē How to pronounce brutally (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of brutal in a Sentence

Sailors sometimes faced brutal punishments like whipping. a brutal struggle for survival in the wilderness The writer describes the dangers of drugs with brutal honesty. The movie is a brutal depiction of the war. The traffic was brutal on the way to work. I had a brutal headache this morning.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The brutal deaths of Rickon and Rob and their direwolves showed how cruel their enemies could be. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Will the Direwolves Come Back on 'Game of Thrones'?," 12 May 2019 Tonight's episode of Game of Thrones was a rough one for just about everyone, between the brutal death of Missandei, Jaime loving and leaving Brienne, and Jon leaving Ghost behind without so much as a farewell pet. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Game of Thrones," 6 May 2019 The brutal shooting death of the activist and politician, a black single mother from the city’s Maré slum, sparked fears of a politically motivated execution to silence a vocal critic of police violence against the city’s poorest. ... Jeffrey T. Lewis, WSJ, "Two Former Police Officers Charged in Killing of Brazilian Activist Marielle Franco," 12 Mar. 2019 Before his brutal death on June 21, Anthony Avalos was allegedly tortured for days. Alexia Fernandez,, "California Boy, 10, Who Came Out as Gay Before Death Was Tortured for Days: Prosecutors," 4 July 2018 One by one, everyone in the family starts dying violent, brutal deaths. Yohana Desta, HWD, "Let’s Talk about Hereditary’s Insane Ending," 8 June 2018 In 2008, a community was shocked by the brutal stabbing deaths of Tom Hunter and Shirlee Sherman inside the Hunter family home. CBS News, "Was revenge the motive behind Omaha stabbing deaths?," 2 June 2018 Lopez is accused in the brutal beating death of Jose Luis Menchaca in September 2014. Elizabeth Zavala, San Antonio Express-News, "Final arguments readied in beating, dismemberment case," 1 June 2018 Its past was a more violent time, with severe consequences including brutal deaths within prison walls. Samantha Melamed,, "KFC, dinosaur prints, rock'n'roll: The stranger-than-fiction forgotten history of Graterford state prison," 30 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of brutal

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for brutal

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

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Statistics for brutal

Last Updated

23 May 2019

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Time Traveler for brutal

The first known use of brutal was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for brutal



English Language Learners Definition of brutal

: extremely cruel or harsh
: very direct and accurate in a way that is harsh or unpleasant
informal : very bad or unpleasant


bru·​tal | \ ˈbrü-tᵊl How to pronounce brutal (audio) \

Kids Definition of brutal

: cruel and harsh brutal treatment

Other Words from brutal

brutally adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on brutal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with brutal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for brutal

Spanish Central: Translation of brutal

Nglish: Translation of brutal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of brutal for Arabic Speakers

Comments on brutal

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


a strong desire or propensity

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