• Break



    From Middle English breken, from Old English brecan ("to break"), from Proto-Germanic *brekaną ("to break"), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰrag-.


    Cognates of Germanic origin include Scots brek ("to break"), West Frisian brekke ("to break"), Dutch breken ("to break"), Low German breken ("to break"), German brechen ("to break"), French broyer ("to crush, grind"), Gothic 𐌱𐍂𐌹𐌺𐌰𐌽 (brikan, "to break, destroy"), Norwegian brek ("desire, yearning").

    Also cognate with Albanian brishtë ("fragile"), Latin frangō ("break, break up, shatter", verb.), from whence English fracture and other terms – fragile, frail, fraction, and fragment.

    Full definition of break


    1. (transitive, intransitive) To separate into two or more pieces, to fracture or crack, by a process that cannot easily be reversed for reassembly.If the vase falls to the floor, it might break.She broke the vase.
      1. (transitive, intransitive) To crack or fracture (bone) under a physical strain.His ribs broke under the weight of the rocks piled on his chest.She broke his neck.He slipped on the ice and broke his leg.
    2. (transitive, US) To divide (something, often money) into smaller units.''Can you break a hundred-dollar bill for me?The wholesaler broke the container loads into palettes and boxes for local retailers.
    3. (transitive) To cause (a person) to lose his or her spirit or will; to crush the spirits of; to ruin (a person) emotionally.Her child's death broke Angela.Interrogators have used many forms of torture to break prisoners of war.
      • Shakespearean old man, broken with the storms of state
    4. (intransitive) To be crushed, or overwhelmed with sorrow or grief.My heart is breaking.
    5. (transitive) To cause (a person or animal) to lose its will.You have to break an elephant before you can use it as an animal of burden.The interrogator hoped to break her to get her testimony against her accomplices.
    6. (transitive) To interrupt; to destroy the continuity of; to dissolve or terminate.I've got to break this habit I have of biting my nails.to break silence; to break one's sleep; to break one's journeyI had won four games in a row, but now you've broken my streak of luck.
      • ShakespeareGo, release them, Ariel;
        My charms I'll break, their senses I'll restore.
    7. (transitive) To ruin financially.The recession broke some small businesses.
      • DrydenWith arts like these rich Matho, when he speaks,
        Attracts all fees, and little lawyers breaks.
    8. (transitive) To violate, to not adhere to.When you go to Vancouver, promise me you won't break the law.He broke his vows by cheating on his wife.break one's wordTime travel would break the laws of physics.''
      • MiltonOut, out, hyena! these are thy wonted arts ...
        To break all faith, all vows, deceive, betray.
    9. (intransitive, of a fever) To pass the most dangerous part of the illness; to go down, temperaturewise.Susan's fever broke at about 3 AM, and the doctor said the worst was over.
    10. (transitive, gaming slang) To design or use a powerful (yet legal) strategy that unbalances the game in a player's favor.Letting white have three extra queens would break chess.
    11. (transitive, intransitive) To stop, or to cause to stop, functioning properly or altogether.On the hottest day of the year the refrigerator broke.Did you two break the trolley by racing with it?
      1. (specifically, in programming) To cause (some feature of a program or piece of software) to stop functioning properly; to cause a regression.Adding 64-bit support broke backward compatibility with earlier versions.
    12. (transitive) To cause (a barrier) to no longer bar.break a seal
      1. (specifically) To cause the shell of (an egg) to crack, so that the inside (yolk) is accessible.
      2. (specifically) To open (a safe) without using the correct key, combination, or the like.
    13. (intransitive, of a wave of water) To collapse into surf, after arriving in shallow water.
    14. (intransitive, of a storm or spell of weather) To end.The forecast says the hot weather will break by midweek.
    15. (intransitive) To burst forth; to make its way; to come into view.
      • ShakespeareThe clouds are still above; and, while I speak,
        A second deluge o'er our head may break.
      • WordsworthAnd from the turf a fountain broke,
        And gurgled at our feet.
    16. (intransitive) To interrupt or cease one's work or occupation temporarily.Let's break for lunch.
    17. (transitive) To interrupt (a fall) by inserting something so that the falling object not hit something else beneath.He survived the jump out the window because the bushes below broke his fall.
    18. (transitive, ergative) To disclose or make known an item of news, etc.The newsman wanted to break a big story, something that would make him famous.I don't know how to break this to you, but your cat is not coming back.In the latest breaking news...When news of their divorce broke, ...
    19. (intransitive, of morning) To arrive.Morning has broken.
      • ShakespeareThe day begins to break, and night is fled.
    20. (intransitive, of a sound) To become audible suddenly.
    21. (transitive) To change a steady state abruptly.His coughing broke the silence.His turning on the lights broke the enchantment.With the mood broken, what we had been doing seemed pretty silly.
    22. (copulative, informal) To suddenly become.Things began breaking bad for him when his parents died.The arrest was standard, when suddenly the suspect broke ugly.
    23. (intransitive) Of a voice, to alter in type: in men generally to go up, in women sometimes to go down; to crack.His voice breaks when he gets emotional.
    24. (transitive) To surpass or do better than (a specific number), to do better than (a record), setting a new record.He broke the men's 100-meter record.I can't believe she broke 3 under par!The policeman broke sixty on a residential street in his hurry to catch the thief.
    25. (sports and games):
      1. (transitive, tennis) To win a game (against one's opponent) as receiver.He needs to break serve to win the match.
        • 2012, June 28, Jamie Jackson, Wimbledon 2012: Lukas Rosol shocked by miracle win over Rafael Nadal, Yet when play restarted the Czech was a train that kept on running over Nadal. After breaking Nadal in the opening game of the final set, he went 2-0 up and later took the count to 4-2 with yet another emphatic ace – one of his 22 throughout.
      2. (intransitive, billiards, snooker, pool) To make the first shot; to scatter the balls from the initial neat arrangement.Is it your or my turn to break?
      3. (backgammon, transitive) To remove one of the two men on (a point).
      4. (transitive, military, most often in the passive tense) To demote, to reduce the military rank of.
        • 1953 February 9, “Books: First Rulers of Asia”, in Time:And he played no favorites: when his son-in-law sacked a city he had been told to spare, Genghis broke him to private.
        • 1968, William Manchester, , Back Bay (2003), ISBN 978-0-316-52940-2, page 215:One morning after the budget had failed to balance Finanzminister von Scholz picked up Der Reichsanzeiger and found he had been broken to sergeant.
        • 2006, Peter Collier (political author), Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, Second Edition, Artisan Books, ISBN 978-1-57965-314-9, page 42:Not long after this event, Clausen became involved in another disciplinary situation and was broken to private—the only one to win the Medal of Honor in Vietnam.
      5. (transitive) To end (a connection), to disconnect.The referee ordered the boxers to break the clinch.The referee broke the boxers' clinch.I couldn't hear a thing he was saying, so I broke the connection and called him back.
      6. (intransitive, of an emulsion) To demulsify.
        • 2004, J. L. Atwood, Jonathan W. Steed, Encyclopedia of supramolecular chemistry, Conversely, as the emulsion breaks and the system returns to the original state, energy is released.
        • 2006, Johan Sjöblom, Emulsions and emulsion stability, When the droplets hit a solid wall the emulsion breaks instantly forming a bitumen on the wall and thus a layer up to 1 cm thick can be sprayed in one operation without requiring drying in between.
      7. (intransitive, sports) To counter-attack
        • 2010, December 28, Kevin Darlin, West Brom 1 - 3 Blackburn, The Baggies almost hit back instantly when Graham Dorrans broke from midfield and pulled the trigger from 15 yards but Paul Robinson did superbly to tip the Scot's drive around the post.
      8. (obsolete) To lay open, as a purpose; to disclose, divulge, or communicate.
        • ShakespeareKatharine, break thy mind to me.
      9. (intransitive) To become weakened in constitution or faculties; to lose health or strength.
        • Jonathan SwiftSee how the dean begins to break;
          Poor gentleman he droops apace.
      10. (intransitive, obsolete) To fail in business; to become bankrupt.
        • Francis BaconHe that puts all upon adventures doth oftentimes break, and come to poverty.
      11. To destroy the arrangement of; to throw into disorder; to pierce.The cavalry were not able to break the British squares.
      12. To destroy the strength, firmness, or consistency of.to break flax
      13. To destroy the official character and standing of; to cashier; to dismiss.
        • Jonathan SwiftI see a great officer broken.
      14. (intransitive) To make an abrupt or sudden change; to change the gait.to break into a run or gallop
      15. (archaic) To fall out; to terminate friendship.
        • CollierTo break upon the score of danger or expense is to be mean and narrow-spirited.

    Usage notes

    The sense relating to a spell of weather is most likely to be used after a period of persistent good or bad weather; it is rarely used to signify the end of short-lived conditions.

    In colloquial use, the past participle is sometimes 'broke' instead of 'broken,' as in the expression "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."





    (plural breaks)
    1. An instance of breaking something into two pieces.The femur has a clean break and so should heal easily.
    2. A physical space that opens up in something or between two things.The sun came out in a break in the clouds.He waited minutes for a break in the traffic to cross the highway.
    3. (music) A short section of music, often between verses, in which some performers stop while others continue.The fiddle break was amazing, it was a pity the singer came back in on the wrong note.
    4. A rest or pause, usually from work; a breaktime.Let’s take a five-minute break.
    5. A temporary split (with a romantic partner).I think we need a break.
    6. An interval or intermission between two parts of a performance, for example a theatre show, broadcast, or sports game.
      • 2010, December 29, Chris Whyatt, Chelsea 1 - 0 Bolton, But they marginally improved after the break as Didier Drogba hit the post.
    7. A significant change in circumstance, attitude, perception, or focus of attention: big break, lucky break, bad break.
    8. (British, weather) a change; the end of a spell of persistent good or bad weather
    9. The beginning (of the morning).daybreakat the break of day
    10. An act of escaping.make a break for itmake a break for the doorIt was a clean break.prison break
    11. (surfing) A place where waves break (that is, where waves pitch or spill forward creating white water).The final break in the Greenmount area is Kirra Point.
    12. (sports and games):
      1. (tennis) A game won by the receiving player(s).
      2. (billiards, snooker, pool) The first shot in a game of billiards
      3. (snooker) The number of points scored by one player in one visit to the table
      4. (soccer) The counter-attack
        • 2010, December 28, Owen Phillips, Sunderland 0 - 2 Blackpool, Blackpool were not without their opportunities - thanks to their willingness to commit and leave men forward even when under severe pressure - and they looked very capable of scoring on the break.
    13. (dated) A large four-wheeled carriage, having a straight body and calash top, with the driver's seat in front and the footman's behind.
    14. A sharp bit or snaffle.
      • GascoignePampered jades ... which need nor break nor bit.

    Usage notes

    (music) The instruments that are named are the ones that carry on playing, for example a fiddle break implies that the fiddle is the most prominent instrument playing during the break.


    • (instance of breaking something into two pieces) split
    • (physical space that opens up in something or between two things) breach, gap, space
    • (rest or pause, usually from work) time out


    © Wiktionary