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[brit-l] /ˈbrɪt l/
adjective, brittler, brittlest.
having hardness and rigidity but little tensile strength; breaking readily with a comparatively smooth fracture, as glass.
easily damaged or destroyed; fragile; frail:
a brittle marriage.
lacking warmth, sensitivity, or compassion; aloof; self-centered:
a self-possessed, cool, and rather brittle person.
having a sharp, tense quality:
a brittle tone of voice.
unstable or impermanent; evanescent.
a confection of melted sugar, usually with nuts, brittle when cooled:
peanut brittle.
verb (used without object), brittled, brittling.
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
brittleness, noun
unbrittle, adjective
unbrittleness, noun
Can be confused
brittle, fragile, frail (see synonym study at frail)
1. fragile. See frail1 . Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for brittleness
  • To overcome this brittleness they are frequently deposited as thin films on other, more flexible, materials.
  • Inspect hoses for cracking, brittleness and leaks, and make sure there are no sharp bends in the tubing.
  • Porosity can vary within parts as well, leading to concerns about fatigue or brittleness.
  • The regime began to retreat, but its tossing of concessions and apologies only revealed its underlying brittleness.
  • Trickles of feeling seeped through the brittleness and appeared as expressions on her face.
  • Check grill hoses for cracks, brittleness and holes.
  • Visually inspect the hoses on a gas grill for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks.
  • Because of zein's brittleness, plasticizers have to be added to zein for zein films to be flexible at room temperature.
  • Check the package for damage and check the condom for signs of aging such as brittleness, stickiness, and discoloration.
  • On the other hand, excessive heat and dryness will contribute to the paper's brittleness.
British Dictionary definitions for brittleness


the quality of being brittle
(metallurgy) the tendency of a metal to break without being significantly distorted or exposed to a high level of stress Compare toughness (sense 2), softness (sense 2)


easily cracked, snapped, or broken; fragile
curt or irritable: a brittle reply
hard or sharp in quality
a crunchy sweet made with treacle and nuts: peanut brittle
Derived Forms
brittlely, 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
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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."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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brittleness in Science
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 © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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