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See more synonyms for brittle on Thesaurus.com
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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  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 for brittle

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

Related Words for brittleness

frailty, delicacy, brittleness

Examples from the Web for brittleness

Historical Examples of brittleness

British Dictionary definitions for brittleness


  1. the quality of being brittle
  2. metallurgy the tendency of a metal to break without being significantly distorted or exposed to a high level of stressCompare toughness (def. 2), softness (def. 2)
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  1. easily cracked, snapped, or broken; fragile
  2. curt or irritablea brittle reply
  3. hard or sharp in quality
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  1. a crunchy sweet made with treacle and nutspeanut brittle
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Derived Formsbrittlely 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

Word Origin and History for brittleness



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

brittleness in Science


  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.