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 \ -​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

Emmett’s brutal murder showed the world how horrific racial violence and racial injustice were. Jameelah Nasheed, Teen Vogue, "The Emmett Till Case Is Being Reopened by the Department of Justice," 12 July 2018 Despite early suggestions that the brutal murders may have been committed by three white or Latino men, San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies homed in on Cooper, who had escaped from a prison in Chino two days earlier. Laura J. Nelson,, "Brown will consider new DNA testing in Chino Hills murder case," 5 July 2018 Holdel is widely known for being a suspect in the brutal murder of Elizabeth Short, also known as the Black Dahlia., "Chris Pine’s New Show Is Basically True Detective: Wonder Woman & We're All In," 4 July 2018 An eyewitness to the attack of a San Antonio man in 2014 detailed the brutal assault before the man was suffocated and dismembered and parts of his body cooked on a grill, as the murder retrial of Daniel Moreno Lopez opened Friday. Elizabeth Zavala, San Antonio Express-News, "Witness details gruesome beating of San Antonio man who was cut up, body parts burned," 25 May 2018 The video that was released today shows how aggressive the police officer was before, during and after the brutal assault. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Tosa police officer remains on normal duty after scuffle with teen at Mayfair Mall," 15 May 2018 Four Jackson County jail inmates were charged today in a brutal assault on Aug. 26, 2017,of a corrections officer, who suffered a concussion and other injuries, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced today. Mike Hendricks, kansascity, "Grand jury reports a filthy, crowded Jackson County jail. Where's the money going? | The Kansas City Star," 11 May 2018 Instead, the behavior that Schneiderman’s accusers describe involves brutal, nonconsensual assaults, which allegedly surprised and scared his victims. Jessica Wakeman, Glamour, "Don't Use My Kink as a Cover for Your Abuse," 9 May 2018 Then more than a thousand protesters were massacred in a brutal crackdown. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, "Cairo: A Type of Love Story," 30 Apr. 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

7 Nov 2018

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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

: 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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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 express warning or disapproval

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