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 In 1996, following the brutal beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, lawmakers in Congress introduced two bills that would have addressed the issue, creating a national clearinghouse for law enforcement employment data. Emilie Eaton,, "Three San Antonio police officers, fired by SAPD, were later hired in Leon Valley. Here’s why.," 3 July 2020 The most brutal stuff in this episode, though, is saved for last. Christian Holub,, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap: Robot vs. robot," 2 July 2020 The work was backbreaking, and the conditions brutal. Jim Downs, The New Yorker, "The Gay Marriages of a Nineteenth-Century Prison Ship," 2 July 2020 When this triggered protests by India's Muslims and their progressive backers, especially on college campuses, the Modi government responded with brutal violence. Shikha Dalmia, TheWeek, "What makes America exceptional," 2 July 2020 But memories of the group’s brutal reign persist, years after the military campaign to root them out. Washington Post, "New mass grave unearthed in Iraq’s north from brutal IS rule," 2 July 2020 Columbus, one of the first Europeans to arrive in the New World, is regularly criticized for his brutal treatment and killing of Native Americans. Danielle Garrand, CBS News, "Christopher Columbus statue taken down in Columbus, Ohio," 1 July 2020 Comparisons have been made between the roles played by the video of Floyd’s death and that of the 1991 brutal beating of Rodney King, an unarmed Black man, by four white Los Angeles police officers. Allie Morris, Dallas News, "Declaration by George Floyd’s daughter that ‘Daddy changed the world’ is true — at least for now.," 30 June 2020 Some experts estimate that his brutal treatment of the country left as many as 10 million Congolese dead. Fox News, "Belgium dismantles statue of former monarch as king expresses 'deepest regrets' for DR Congo colonial abuses," 30 June 2020

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

7 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Brutal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jul. 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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