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brittle

[brit-l]
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adjective, brit·tler, brit·tlest.
  1. having hardness and rigidity but little tensile strength; breaking readily with a comparatively smooth fracture, as glass.
  2. easily damaged or destroyed; fragile; frail: a brittle marriage.
  3. lacking warmth, sensitivity, or compassion; aloof; self-centered: a self-possessed, cool, and rather brittle person.
  4. having a sharp, tense quality: a brittle tone of voice.
  5. unstable or impermanent; evanescent.
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noun
  1. a confection of melted sugar, usually with nuts, brittle when cooled: peanut brittle.
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verb (used without object), brit·tled, brit·tling.
  1. to be or become brittle; crumble.
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Origin of brittle

1350–1400; Middle English britel, equivalent to brit- (akin to Old English brysten fragment) + -el adj. suffix
Related formsbrit·tle·ness, nounun·brit·tle, adjectiveun·brit·tle·ness, noun
Can be confusedbrittle fragile frail1 (see synonym study at frail1)

Synonyms

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1. fragile. See frail1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for brittle

brittle

adjective
  1. easily cracked, snapped, or broken; fragile
  2. curt or irritablea brittle reply
  3. hard or sharp in quality
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noun
  1. a crunchy sweet made with treacle and nutspeanut brittle
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Derived Formsbrittlely or brittly, adverb

Word Origin

C14: from Old English brytel (unattested); related to brytsen fragment, brēotan to break
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for brittle

adj.

late 14c., britel, perhaps from an unrecorded Old English adjective *brytel, related to brytan "to crush, pound, to break to pieces," from Proto-Germanic stem *brutila- "brittle," from *breutan "to break up" (cf. Old Norse brjota "to break," Old High German brodi "fragile"), and related to bruise (v.). With -le, suffix forming adjectives with meaning "liable to."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

brittle in Science

brittle

[brĭtl]
  1. Having a tendency to break when subject to high stress. Brittle materials have undergone very little strain when they reach their elastic limit, and tend to break at that limit. Compare ductile.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.