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 Even during a normal wildfire season on the West Coast, the life of a wildland firefighter is brutal. Matt Simon, Wired, "Wildfires Already Threaten the West. Then Came Covid-19," 11 May 2020 Hannah’s mom is giving Peter Weber’s mom, Barb, a run for her money on who can be most brutal. Shannon Carlin,, "Hannah Brown’s Mom Is Still Prayer Hands Emoji Happy That Jed Wyatt Got Sent Home," 10 May 2020 McGraw faced a brutal round of criticism for his comments, with his name trending on Twitter Friday morning. Oliver Darcy, CNN, "Fox News keeps inviting TV doctors on air who say crazy things," 17 Apr. 2020 But the combination of water, wind, and below-freezing temperatures is brutal on fingers and hands, and ordinary gloves just don’t cut it. Outdoor Life, "Reliable, high-performance gloves to keep your hands functional in bitter cold," 9 Apr. 2020 But his handling of the childcare business has been brutal for parents and professionals, who have spent seven days waiting for guidance, and worrying. Michelle Jarboe, cleveland, "Northeast Ohio childcare centers prepare to serve parents on the front lines of coronavirus pandemic," 22 Mar. 2020 In the 1990s, the wars that broke up Yugoslavia became a brutal reminder of why such treaties had been drafted — and how they were ignored. Rick Noack,, "The disturbing history in Trump’s threat to target Iranian cultural sites," 6 Jan. 2020 Another effort was 2015's Jem and the Holograms, a box-office bomb despite being budgeted at just $5 million, and another brutal reminder to Hasbro that not all its IP is implicitly cinematic. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "Hasbro’s Toy Box Is Bigger Than Ever With $3.8 Billion Entertainment One Takeover," 30 Dec. 2019 The Voice season 17 finalists were revealed on Tuesday night and four of the eight semifinalists were sent home after a brutal round of cuts heading into next week’s finale. Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Billboard, "'The Voice' Recap: Season 17 Finalists Revealed," 10 Dec. 2019

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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Time Traveler for brutal

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for brutal

Last Updated

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Brutal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for brutal


How to pronounce brutal (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for brutal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with brutal

Spanish Central: Translation of brutal

Nglish: Translation of brutal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of brutal for Arabic Speakers

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