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.


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

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

  1. to be or become brittle; crumble.


  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)


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


  1. a crunchy sweet made with treacle and nutspeanut brittle

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.”

  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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