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.

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

brittleness, noun
unbrittle, adjective
unbrittleness, noun

brittle, fragile, frail (see synonym study at frail).

1. fragile. See frail1. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
brittle (ˈbrɪtəl)
1.  easily cracked, snapped, or broken; fragile
2.  curt or irritable: a brittle reply
3.  hard or sharp in quality
4.  a crunchy sweet made with treacle and nuts: peanut brittle
[C14: from Old English brytel (unattested); related to brytsen fragment, brēotan to break]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

M.E. britel, perhaps from an unrecorded O.E. adj. *brytel, related to brytan "to crush, pound, to break to pieces," from P.Gmc. stem *brutila- "brittle," from *breutan "to break up" (cf. O.N. brjota "to break," O.H.G. brodi "fragile"), and related to bruise. With -le, suffix
forming adjectives with meaning "liable to."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
brittle   (brĭt'l)  Pronunciation Key 
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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Computing Dictionary

brittle definition

Said of software that is functional but easily broken by changes in operating environment or configuration, or by any minor tweak to the software itself. Also, any system that responds inappropriately and disastrously to abnormal but expected external stimuli; e.g. a file system that is usually totally scrambled by a power failure is said to be brittle. This term is often used to describe the results of a research effort that were never intended to be robust, but it can be applied to commercially developed software, which displays the quality far more often than it ought to.
Opposite of robust.
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Example sentences
This part of the mountain was covered in very fragile, brittle lava.
It is best to bake and assemble the confection shortly before it is to be
  served, so that the caramel will remain brittle.
These rigid, brittle people didn't start out that way.
The grass is brittle, stubby, overgrazed.
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