[ brit-l ]
/ ˈbrɪt l /

adjective, brit·tler, brit·tlest.


a confection of melted sugar, usually with nuts, brittle when cooled: peanut brittle.

verb (used without object), brit·tled, brit·tling.

to be or become brittle; crumble.

Origin of brittle

1350–1400; Middle English britel, equivalent to brit- (akin to Old English brysten fragment) + -el adj. suffix

Related forms

brit·tle·ness, nounun·brit·tle, adjectiveun·brit·tle·ness, noun

Can be confused

brittle fragile frail1 (see synonym study at frail1) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for brittle

British Dictionary definitions for brittle


/ (ˈbrɪtəl) /


easily cracked, snapped, or broken; fragile
curt or irritablea brittle reply
hard or sharp in quality


a crunchy sweet made with treacle and nutspeanut brittle

Derived Forms

brittlely or brittly, adverb

Word Origin for brittle

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

Science definitions for brittle


[ brĭtl ]

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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.