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 brutal (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 Scott manages to fill in the finer brushstrokes of all those characters and still fit the kind of bravura action set pieces he's known for; the fight scenes are breathlessly, bone-crunchingly brutal. Leah Greenblatt,, 8 Oct. 2021 Because, man, the iX’s exterior styling is just brutal. Dan Neil, WSJ, 1 Oct. 2021 This is more brutal than other nonexpansion Medicaid states, such as Georgia and Oklahoma, where the cutoffs recently were 36 and 45 percent of the federal poverty level, respectively. Michael Taylor, San Antonio Express-News, 29 Sep. 2021 The violence, lest anyone has forgotten, is brutal and disturbing. Brian Lowry, CNN, 21 Sep. 2021 The murders were so brutal that police were comparing the case to the Tate-LaBianca murders by the Manson Family. Mike Sager, Rolling Stone, 17 Sep. 2021 But the pandemic has also highlighted how brutal the market can be for independent workers. Eric Taussig, Forbes, 14 Sep. 2021 In a slow and measured movie that's both brutal and bleak, Isaac shines as an ace gambler and former interrogator named William Tell, who spent nearly 10 years in military jail. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 9 Sep. 2021 His actions over the course of the final battle for Troy and its long aftermath are brutal and deadly; Barker does not ask us to forgive Pyrrhus, simply to understand him. Washington Post, 24 Aug. 2021

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

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

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Last Updated

12 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Brutal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce brutal (audio) \

Kids Definition of brutal

: cruel and harsh brutal treatment

Other Words from brutal

brutally adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on brutal

Nglish: Translation of brutal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of brutal for Arabic Speakers


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