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From Middle English britel, brutel, brotel (brittle), from *Old English brytel, *bryttol (brittle, fragile, literally prone to or tending to break), equivalent to brit +‎ -le. More at brit.


  • IPA(key): /ˈbɹɪtl̩/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪtəl


brittle (comparative brittler or more brittle, superlative brittlest or most brittle)

  1. Inflexible, liable to break or snap easily under stress or pressure.
    Cast iron is much more brittle than forged iron.
    A diamond is hard but brittle.
    • 1977, Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, Penguin Classics, p. 329:
      'Do you suppose our convent, and I too, / Are insufficient, then, to pray for you? / Thomas, that joke's not good. Your faith is brittle.
  2. Not physically tough or tenacious; apt to break or crumble when bending.
    • Shortbread is my favorite cold pastry, yet being so brittle it crumbles easily, and a lot goes to waste.
  3. (archaeology) Said of rocks and minerals with a conchoidal fracture; capable of being knapped or flaked.
  4. Emotionally fragile, easily offended.
    What a brittle personality! A little misunderstanding and he's an emotional wreck.
  5. (informal, proscribed)[1] Diabetes that is characterized by dramatic swings in blood sugar level.

Derived terms[edit]



brittle (usually uncountable, plural brittles)

  1. A confection of caramelized sugar and nuts.
    As a child, my favorite candy was peanut brittle.
  2. Anything resembling this confection, such as flapjack, a cereal bar, etc.



See also[edit]