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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

But the timing was brutal: Bryce was 48 hours away from debating Cathy Myers, a school board member in Paul Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination for the retiring House speaker’s seat. David Weigel, Washington Post, "In Wisconsin, a Democratic star finds himself in a primary brawl," 9 July 2018 Martinez’s large-scale photographs are printed in luxurious silvery grays, nodding toward Gerhard Richter’s great 1988 painting cycle on the brutal Baader-Meinhof gang, as the RAF was also known. Christopher Knight,, "'Made in L.A. 2018': Why the Hammer biennial is the right show for disturbing times," 5 June 2018 Locke claimed Bermudez told him to pay attention to the news, because anyone associated with the notoriously brutal street gang MS-13, which originated in Los Angeles with Salvadoran immigrants in the 1970s, was going to get hurt and die. Evan Allen,, "West Brookfield house still haunted by questions," 21 Apr. 2018 Madikizela-Mandela was married to the late Nelson Mandela for 38 years; 27 of those years saw Nelson imprisoned on Robben Island for his organizing against the brutal apartheid regime in his homeland. Angela Helm, The Root, "Thousands of South Africans Say Farewell to ‘Mama’ Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Soweto," 14 Apr. 2018 Large homes built on speculation sat unfinished and vacant for years. Fridays were brutal. Steve Jagler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Jagler: Former MGIC CEO Curt Culver shares secrets to career happiness," 29 June 2018 There is enough talent returning to make this a smooth transition for Rodenberg, although the schedule is brutal. 10. Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, "High school football: New faces in new places for 2018 season," 28 June 2018 The Senate confirmed her Thursday by a vote of 54 to 45, despite deep concerns from Democrats and some Republicans about her role in the agency’s brutal interrogations following the 2001 terror attacks. Michael D. Shear,, "Trump swears in Haspel as CIA director," 21 May 2018 Senators pressed her last week over her role supervising a CIA black site in Thailand where detainees faced brutal interrogations, as well as her role in the 2005 destruction of CIA interrogation tapes. Jeremy Herb, CNN, "Trump's CIA chief nominee committee vote scheduled for Wednesday," 14 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about brutal

Dictionary Entries near brutal








Statistics for brutal

Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for brutal

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 make amends

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!