Definition of brittle in English:



  • 1Hard but liable to break easily.

    ‘her bones became fragile and brittle’
    • ‘Romping by a half-iced pond, they break through the brittle ice and come home muddy, wet-mittened, and whining.’
    • ‘However, the rubbery material was brittle and broke too easily.’
    • ‘And if you have long hair and it gets brittle, it breaks off…’
    • ‘Another characteristic in spider silk's favor is that it has to get very cold before it becomes brittle enough to break easily.’
    • ‘If you over- or underprocess your hair, you can expect brittle strands that snap easily.’
    • ‘For example, getting enough calcium can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, in which bones become brittle and break as one ages.’
    • ‘Quartz is a very hard stone; it's also brittle and breaks easily into small chunks.’
    • ‘When harvesting, always cut rather than pull peppers from the plant so you don't break their brittle branches.’
    • ‘Instead, I held the fragile note from that fateful night in my fingertips, taking extreme care not to break the brittle edges.’
    • ‘In severe cases, nails may become brittle and break easily.’
    • ‘With a little planning and preventive measures, you can avoid the common sun and surf damage of faded colour, fragile, brittle or dry hair and yucky split ends.’
    • ‘Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become thin, brittle and easily broken.’
    • ‘The ledge was brittle, and would be easily broken.’
    • ‘Cast iron is heavy, hard, somewhat brittle, and may break if dropped.’
    • ‘Ageing brain corals, brittle firecorals and delicate seafans are easily dislodged from their anchorages by the fierce breakers.’
    • ‘Be forewarned that the plastic is brittle, and you can easily break it in the process.’
    • ‘As it was fractured before it left the bell tower and was gently lowered, it is likely the brittle metal broke in the sudden change of temperature from scorching heat to cold as the flames were doused with water.’
    • ‘The Earth's crust, as with many planetary crusts, is brittle and breaks relatively easily.’
    • ‘In some cases the use of chemical texturizers may cause color treated tresses to become brittle, spongy or break off.’
    • ‘If not staked, the wind will often times break the somewhat brittle, sprawling stems at the base.’
    breakable, splintery, shatterable, fragile, frail, delicate, frangible
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    1. 1.1 (of a person's voice) unpleasantly hard and sharp and showing signs of instability or nervousness.
      ‘a brittle laugh’
      • ‘The sound of his voice was eerie, with the words cracking, brittle with the dryness that shrunk his throat.’
      • ‘She smokes and drinks and engages in brittle chatter, laughing through it all as if men, love, life were sports in which she was the Olympic medallist.’
      • ‘When he spoke again, his voice was brittle.’
      • ‘O'Toole's clear blue eyes and brittle voice flood with so much anguish and pain that even Pitt's fixed pout and the awful lines cannot make a laughable travesty of the scene.’
      • ‘On ‘Dreamers,’ the first syllable Frost sings sounds so brittle and fragile it seems about to shatter into ice crystals at any moment.’
      • ‘Other songs recall Joy Division and Depeche Mode, as his brittle voice tiptoes to center stage with only a spare backing of guitars and drum loops.’
      • ‘On top of that, it's a pretty interesting contrast to the Albini-inspired, sharp and brittle guitar splatters that round out the rest of independent rock.’
      • ‘But the brittle strums of acoustic and Nick Kenyon's powerful voice add up to a heady concoction of protest song and a truly unplugged, but no less energetic workout.’
      • ‘If McRae's voice has a brittle edge, the phrasing is imperious.’
      • ‘It is compelling in the extreme - even more so as Nina's voice is sweet yet brittle, arid and luscious.’
      • ‘She could hear the brittle edge in her voice, and hated how desperate it made her sound.’
      • ‘Jude offered a brittle laugh at his own expense.’
      • ‘She sits up straight, her voice becoming clipped and brittle.’
      • ‘He gave a brittle laugh and shook his head, eyebrows raised in incredulity.’
      • ‘‘I still do not like it,’ he said, his voice turned brittle now.’
      • ‘She laughed, it was a brittle sound, ‘your ex-fiancée's sitting right over there.’’
      harsh, hard, sharp, strident, grating, rasping
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    2. 1.2 Appearing decisive or cheerful but unstable or nervous within.
      ‘her manner was artificially bright and brittle’
      • ‘So much so that, in meeting Streep, an edge of brittle insecurity appears faintly visible beneath her ageless face and coolly cordial manner.’
      • ‘Poets, popularly, are delicate petals, emotionally brittle and easily roused.’
      • ‘Miner is spot-on, down to her brittle smile and overeager voice.’
      • ‘There's the Uniform Man, who is emotionally insecure, with a rigid and brittle temperament.’
      • ‘Hearst's world is populated by nervous, brittle sophisticates who jump joylessly around when the potentate's mistress orders them to Charleston: cats on a very hot tin roof.’
      edgy, on edge, nervous, unstable, highly strung, anxious, tense, excitable, jumpy, skittish, neurotic, hysterical
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mass noun
  • A brittle sweet made from nuts and set melted sugar.

    ‘peanut brittle’
    • ‘For the almond brittle: In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and simmer until golden brown.’
    • ‘It was shiny on the top, with some little bubbles in places, like a piece of dark green peanut brittle.’
    • ‘My friend's wife takes the paper bag of peanut brittle from my wife, unfolds the top, peeks inside.’
    • ‘It broke sharply and satisfyingly, like good peanut brittle.’
    • ‘It is no accident that peanut brittle resembles light brown glass.’
    • ‘And really, the first few bites of peanut brittle, frosted cookies, etc., are always the best.’
    • ‘The cave lies faulted in east-to-west joints, like a huge sheet of cracked peanut brittle.’
    • ‘Its only hope is a shard of unconventional pumpkin seed brittle, which is sweet and crunchy and redolent with cumin.’
    • ‘The silky, smooth livery foie gras contrasted gorgeously with the plum and the almond brittle.’
    • ‘During the holidays I make peanut brittle that I never send to friends, and even melt chocolate, but that's about it.’
    • ‘For the pumpkin seed brittle, in a small covered saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil.’
    • ‘There you can find tons of peanut brittle, peanut butter pie - even peanut soup.’
    • ‘You'll be rewarded with deep flavor and candy that sets up perfectly every time, as in the case of our classic buttery almond toffee and our pretty cashew brittle.’
    • ‘It's topped with a spackling of orange brittle and spiked with fennel seeds, so that the smooth tanginess of the cake melts into a kind of crunchy sweetness on the back of your tongue.’
    • ‘Store your brittle in a tightly closed container at room temperature for several days or freezer for up to two months.’
    • ‘Since 1964, this family-owned shop in historic Old Sacramento has been turning out vats of old-fashioned candy kettle delights like nut brittles, buttery toffee, and caramel corn.’
    • ‘It has a delicious malty aroma with hints of heather and honey and rich, sweet, nutty undertones like sugared almonds or peanut brittle.’
    • ‘Less brave souls might prefer to skip the sugar-cane peanut brittle and chocolate balls for the exotic home-made ice creams.’
    • ‘But explorers would not eat prissy little candy canes and peanut brittle when they could tear into a hamburger, would they?’
    • ‘He and Kat made peanut brittle and he promptly squirmed off Karl's lap to get him a piece.’


Late Middle English, ultimately of Germanic origin and related to Old English brēotan ‘break up’.