bru·​tal | \ ˈbrü-tᵊl \

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

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Other Words from brutal

brutally \ ˈbrü-​tᵊl-​ē \ 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

Society is brutal in its relentless reminders that women will be replaced by someone younger and sexier and cooler. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why Can't Men Like Louis C.K. Accept Their Ideas Are Outdated?," 4 Jan. 2019 The brutal crackdown on Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region of China involves both high- and low-tech surveillance. Maya Wang, WSJ, "China’s Bumbling Police State," 26 Dec. 2018 Police and prosecutors say the Golden State Killer — also known as the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist and the Original Nightstalker — began his crimes with a series of break-ins that escalated to brutal rapes in the Sacramento area in 1976. Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, "Golden State Killer suspect charged with four more murders," 11 May 2018 But after a brutal campaign fueled by damaging news stories about all three candidates, there was concern among some Republicans that enough damage was done to the party's brand to impact its chances against Donnelly. Brian Slodysko, Post-Tribune, "Braun declares victory in Indiana GOP Senate primary," 9 May 2018 The coffee business looks fine right now, but the eventual comedown may be brutal. Aaron Back, WSJ, "Why the Coffee Business Will Get Cold," 28 Dec. 2018 Which is to say: Human lives were no more or less brutal — as measured by head injuries — than Neanderthals during this time. Julia Belluz, Vox, "7 bad science and health ideas that should die with 2018," 26 Dec. 2018 Paul and Jeanne are already lovers, but Paul is increasingly brutal, both psychologically and physically. Anna North, Vox, "The disturbing story behind the rape scene in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris, explained," 26 Nov. 2018 If completed, her trek to the South Pole will be her longest journey yet, and by far the most brutal. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "How an Extreme Endurance Athlete Trains to Trek 704 Miles From Antarctica to the South Pole," 11 Oct. 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 1

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

17 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for brutal

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

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English Language Learners Definition of brutal

: extremely cruel or harsh

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

: very bad or unpleasant


bru·​tal | \ ˈbrü-tᵊl \

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).


to gather or build up little by little

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