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

Other Words from brutal

brutally \ ˈbrü-​tᵊl-​ē How to pronounce brutal (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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web When the Indian government imposed a brutal lockdown in 2020, gig workers were hailed as Covid-19 heroes. Megha Mandavia, WSJ, 29 July 2022 That was the fastest calendar-year expansion since 1984, reflecting how vigorously the economy roared back from the brief but brutal pandemic recession of 2020. Paul Wiseman, Anchorage Daily News, 29 July 2022 These are not images of Black life as brutal, demoralized and fraught. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 28 July 2022 Morocco sought in recent decades to portray itself as a standout in the region on human rights, beginning in the 1990s when the late king Hassan II — known for his brutal repression of dissidents — began to soften his rule. Claire Parker, Washington Post, 28 July 2022 Speed accumulates with brutal efficiency: 60 mph arrives in 2.7 seconds, 100 in 5.4 clicks. Basemwasef, Robb Report, 28 July 2022 By the end of the day on July 22, well over 100 climbers had reached K2’s summit, which is notorious for brutal weather and a high fatality rate. Ben Ayers, Outside Online, 28 July 2022 That was the fastest calendar-year expansion since 1984, reflecting how vigorously the economy roared back from the brief but brutal pandemic recession of 2020. Paul Wiseman, ajc, 28 July 2022 Despite brutal religious, economic, political, and social hardships under European rule, Kumeyaay culture and traditions continue in the region to this day. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 July 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

1 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Brutal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for brutal


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

Kids Definition of brutal

: cruel and harsh brutal treatment

Other Words from brutal

brutally adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on brutal

Nglish: Translation of brutal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of brutal for Arabic Speakers


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