There are 2 main definitions of break in English:

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break 1

Pronunciation: /brāk/

verb (past broke /brōk/; past participle broken /ˈbrōkən/)

1Separate or cause to separate into pieces as a result of a blow, shock, or strain: [no object]: the rope broke with a loud snap the slate fell from my hand and broke in two on the hard floor [with object]: windows in the street were broken by the blast break the chocolate into pieces
More example sentences
  • The cup broke under the strain.
  • His brows creased as he tried to break a piece of chocolate and he smiled when he broke it off.
  • The crew survived, but the aircraft exploded when its payload of munitions blew up breaking the windows of many local houses in the blast.
shatter, smash, crack, snap, fracture, fragment, splinter, fall to bits, fall to pieces;
split, burst
informal bust
1.1Sustain an injury involving the fracture of a bone or bones in a part of the body: [with object]: she had broken her leg in two places [no object]: what if his leg had broken?
More example sentences
  • He spent more than a month in hospital recovering from his many injuries, which included breaking both legs, his collar bone and jaw and he is still undergoing treatment.
  • Unfortunately, she landed badly, breaking a leg and fracturing a bone at the bottom of her spine.
  • The 18-year-old fell from the roof of Crumbs Bakery suffering extensive injuries by breaking both his legs and an arm.
1.2 [with object] Cause a cut or graze in (the skin): the bite had scarcely broken the skin
More example sentences
  • In the ensuing struggle she bit the security guard, breaking the skin and causing reddening and abrasions, the court heard.
  • It transpires that the snake had actually managed to bite through Ian's shinguards before breaking the skin.
  • If I had done it only at a slightly different angle, it probably wouldn't have even broken the skin.
1.3Make or become inoperative: [no object]: the machine has broken, and they can’t fix it until next week [with object]: he’s broken the video
More example sentences
  • Right now, we've broken two bubble machines and have to buy a third one.
  • However, in the ensuing minutes there was an argument, during which the sewing machine got broken.
  • Someone broke the machine by jamming pencils in to it.
stop working, break down, give out, go wrong, malfunction, crash
informal go kaput, conk out, go/be on the blink, go/be on the fritz, give up the ghost
1.4(Of the amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus) be or cause to be discharged when the sac is ruptured in the first stages of labor: [no object]: she realized her water had broken
More example sentences
  • The consultant agreed I could have an epidural if I agreed to have my waters broken - seemed like a fair deal to me.
  • Her waters broke as soon as she got into the ambulance.
  • She was twenty-six weeks pregnant when her waters broke on Friday, December 7.
1.5 [with object] Open (a safe) forcibly.
Example sentences
  • The maid broke the safe and stole money and jewellery.
  • They broke the safe in the Accounts Section and made away with the day's receipts.
  • If a burglar breaks the safe and steals the guns, I won't be held responsible for their criminal use because I did what I reasonably could to secure them.
1.6 [with object] Use (a piece of paper currency) to pay for something and receive change out of the transaction: she had to break a ten
More example sentences
  • I haven't got any change, and I don't want to break a fiver.
  • Most of us are more inclined to break a note than fish around trying to find the right change.
  • Like my sister said, once you break a twenty the rest just disappears.
1.7 [no object] (Of two boxers or wrestlers) come out of a clinch, typically at the referee’s command: I was acting as referee and telling them to break
More example sentences
  • The ref was not between the fighters but he was instructing them to break.
  • He possibly could have cautioned him for holding and hitting as well, or he could have simply ordered them to break.
  • He said the first damaging blow came after the referee had told them to break and stop punching.
1.8 [with object] Unfurl (a flag or sail).
Example sentences
  • When the chief Scout Master broke the flag a huge roar went up from the boys.
  • We opened with the Canadian National Anthem and our Scout and Venture Leader broke the flag to open the festivities.
  • I even broke out the sail for a few minutes until I got bored and switched back to paddling.
1.9 [with object] Succeed in deciphering (a code).
Example sentences
  • We have a large exhibit on World War II cipher machines and the machines that broke the enemy's codes.
  • When all the analyses were ready, the code was broken.
  • Then you have to spend time breaking the code and making your own key, which only lets you hotwire the vehicle.
informal figure out, crack
1.10 [with object] Open (a shotgun or rifle) at the breech.
Example sentences
  • Gun-handling safety guidelines require a shooter to use a breaking type shotgun and to break the shotgun if approached by a member of the public.
  • I broke the gun, and the spent hull ejected amid a brief curl of smoke.
  • I broke the gun and dropped a pair of low-brass 8s in the tubes.
1.11 [with object] Disprove (an alibi).
Example sentences
  • He was arrested then released when the police couldn't break his alibi.
  • The former husband emerged as the most promising suspect after the detectives were able to break his alibi.
  • But analysis of soil in his trouser cuffs broke his alibi and clinched the case.
1.12 [with object] Invalidate (a will) through legal process.
Example sentences
  • The four living children broke the will.
  • Remote heirs broke his will.
2 [with object] Interrupt (a continuity, sequence, or course): the new government broke the pattern of growth his concentration was broken by a sound
More example sentences
  • Everyone has a part to play in breaking this vicious cycle.
  • We have to break this vicious cycle between drug dependency and crime.
  • They must start to break their sequence of drawn games and start winning consistently if they are to retain their title.
interrupt, disturb, interfere with
2.1Put an end to (a silence) by speaking or making contact.
Example sentences
  • ‘Melissa,’ said Matthew breaking the silence and speaking for the first time since the fight had started.
  • She felt it was her job to break the silence between the two.
  • A father of two has broken his silence after keeping his sighting of a ghost 15 years ago at Woodville Halls Theatre a fearful secret.
2.2Make a pause in (a journey): we will break our journey in Venice
More example sentences
  • The newspapers reported that some passengers were breaking their journey at Earl's Court just to ride the escalator.
  • He has a house in Burgundy, about halfway between Tuscany and England, and it was agreed to break the journey there.
  • I broke my journey several times.
2.3 [no object] Stop proceedings in order to have a pause or vacation: at mid-morning they broke for coffee
More example sentences
  • Parliament didn't exactly clean off their desks before they broke for summer recess last Friday.
  • By the time Council finally passed an operating budget and broke for recess in late June, more than a few players lay injured on the field.
  • They last met on August 7 when the fourth round of six-way talks broke for a recess.
stop, pause, have a rest, recess
informal take a breather, take five
2.4Lessen the impact of (a fall): she put out an arm to break her fall
More example sentences
  • The move was so unexpected that he lost his balance, and threw his arm out to break his fall.
  • She fell to the dirt like a doll, her arms breaking the fall painfully.
  • My right arm went out to break my fall and I ended up landing right on my shoulder.
cushion, soften the impact of, take the edge off
2.5Stop oneself from being subject to (a habit).
Example sentences
  • Really wanting to break this bad habit is the first step to stopping.
  • The Canadian Cancer Society is urging smokers trying to quit to plan out how they are going to break their habit.
  • We would have to break old habits that perhaps were once useful, but don't serve their purpose anymore.
give up, relinquish, drop
informal kick, shake, quit
2.6Put an end to (a tie in a game) by making a score.
Example sentences
  • For this purpose the score for a simple game is ignored except to break ties.
  • At Oakbank, Kyle Scott broke a scoreless tie.
  • Waterloo came out on top, however, taking all three of their mixed doubles and breaking the tie with the Blues.
2.7 [no object] (Chiefly of an attacking player or team, or of a military force) make a rush or dash in a particular direction: the flight broke to the right and formed a defensive circle
More example sentences
  • He broke from the halfway line but held onto the ball too long with support on hand.
  • Six riders broke from a lead group of 15 and worked well together to maintain a healthy advantage going into the run.
  • This inspirational player broke round the blind side and was stopped just short of the try line.
2.8Surpass (a record): the movie broke box-office records
More example sentences
  • The film broke box-office records and won seven Academy Awards.
  • The films, too, have proved a hit with an older audience, breaking box-office records for a foreign film.
  • Irish cinema-goers are breaking box-office records, according to new research.
2.9Disconnect or interrupt (an electrical circuit).
Example sentences
  • By bouncing, the reed breaks an electrical circuit.
  • If either voltage or current is too big you could break the circuit.
  • A switch works by breaking the circuit, which stops the current.
2.10 [no object] (Of a pitched baseball) curve or drop on its way toward the batter.
Example sentences
  • Throughout most of his career, breaking pitches had troubled the big-swinging Howard.
  • Unlike some minor league power hitters who struggle with major league curveballs, Ortiz can hit breaking pitches as well as fastballs.
  • His main breaking pitch is a slider, but he mixes in a curveball on occasion.
2.11 [no object] Soccer (Of the ball) rebound unpredictably: the ball broke to Craig but his shot rebounded from the post
More example sentences
  • From a Korean free-kick on the right, the ball breaks to Lee on the edge of the box.
  • The ball breaks to Owen on the left of the Argentinian box.
  • The ball broke among a swarm of backs and forwards.
2.12 [no object] (Of a bowled cricket ball) change direction on bouncing, due to spin.
Example sentences
  • Will there emerge a spinner who breaks the ball so sharply that he needs no fielders on one side of the wicket?
  • This is done by twisting the wrist at the moment of delivery so that the ball breaks when it strikes with the pitch.
  • How much the ball breaks will often depend on the kind of pitch it is.
3 [with object] Fail to observe (a law, regulation, or agreement): the district attorney says she will prosecute retailers who break the law a legally binding contract that can only be broken by mutual consent
More example sentences
  • Traders who break the law by selling to children risk a £5,000 fine and six months imprisonment.
  • ‘Many doctors did not realise they were breaking the law by failing to seek the consent of relatives,’ he reported.
  • I observe how society keeps breaking the rules.
3.1Fail to continue with (a self-imposed discipline): diets started without preparation are broken all the time
More example sentences
  • She resists the urge to break her diet.
  • I didn't realize Vikki wasn't willing to break her healthy habits and was unable to convince her to share fish 'n chips with me.
  • It is no wonder that winter time is when most people break their exercise routines, start unhealthy eating habits and gain weight.
4 [with object] Crush the emotional strength, spirit, or resistance of: the idea was to better the prisoners, not to break them
More example sentences
  • When I look at her I just think that at some point her spirit was broken and then, well, this is what became of her.
  • Anne's spirit could not be broken.
  • She was going to prove he hadn't broken her spirit.
4.1 [no object] (Of a person’s emotional strength) give way: her self-control finally broke
More example sentences
  • Her control broke and she hit him hard across the face.
  • The words died on her tongue, and all of her well-trained control broke.
  • Once in his room, Tony's fragile control broke, tears quickly blinding him.
give way, crack, cave in, yield, go to pieces
4.2Destroy the power of (a movement or organization).
Example sentences
  • They know that this could break the movement and we are afraid that it will work.
  • The bourgeoisie are agreed that the only solution is a dictatorship that crushes and breaks the workers' movement.
  • Government indifference and racist violence did not break the movement - in fact it radicalised it.
destroy, crush, quash, defeat, vanquish, overcome, overpower, overwhelm, suppress, cripple;
weaken, subdue, cow, undermine
4.3Destroy the effectiveness of (a strike), typically by bringing in other people to replace the striking workers.
Example sentences
  • Worse still, soldiers were used to break strikes: workers and peasants were set to fight one another in the clothes of striker and soldier.
  • It was also utilised to break strikes by workers agitating for better working conditions and wages.
  • Workers established the picket in order to prevent the company breaking the strike with replacement drivers.
4.4Tame or train (a horse).
Example sentences
  • He ‘officially’ started training horses for money when he was 13 years old, breaking colts for the locals.
  • He broke the American horses at the Texas training facility owned by his family.
  • As a boy, when he wasn't chopping firewood, breaking broncs or working a local ranch, he was drawing.
5 [no object] Undergo a change or enter a new state, in particular.
5.1(Of the weather) change suddenly: the weather broke, and thunder rumbled through a leaden sky
More example sentences
  • The hot spell had broken and now the weather was bearable again.
  • The heatwave broke and it was gorgeous running weather this morning.
  • The hot weather has definitely broken and it's jumpers before sunset, but only just before.
change, alter, shift
5.2(Of a storm) begin violently.
Example sentences
  • A mild thunderstorm has just broken out over west London, minutes after I got home.
  • On the way to the airport, a colossal thunderstorm broke.
  • A huge thunderstorm broke over St. George's early this morning.
5.3(Of dawn or day) begin with the sun rising: dawn was just breaking
More example sentences
  • When day broke, the summer dawn could not penetrate the leaden gloom above the city.
  • Dawn was breaking as Marie rose from her first restful night's sleep in two weeks.
  • Dawn was a few hours away but when the day broke he knew his cover wouldn't last for long.
dawn, begin, start, emerge, appear
5.4(Of clouds) move apart and begin to disperse.
Example sentences
  • These build and swell into clouds, suddenly breaking apart and dispersing unexpectedly.
  • The grey, looming clouds began to break apart and the blue sky of winter slowly began to show.
  • The clouds broke apart and never dropped their rain.
5.5(Of waves) curl over and dissolve into foam: the Caribbean sea breaking gently on the shore
More example sentences
  • Even in calm seas, the waves breaking over a reef are dangerous.
  • Turning his face towards the sea, he watched the low waves breaking on the sea wall.
  • His pace was brisk and he did not seem to appreciate the music of the sea waves breaking against the parapet.
crash, dash, beat, pound, lash
5.6(Of the voice) falter and change tone, due to emotion: her voice broke as she relived the experience
More example sentences
  • At that point her voice broke and her emotions took control.
  • His voice broke as he fought back emotions to tell an Old Bailey jury of the boy's last words.
  • She'd called me up, her voice breaking and shaking, I could tell she was hurt.
5.7(Of a boy’s voice) change in tone and register at puberty.
Example sentences
  • He turned professional at the age of 12 but had to ‘retire’ when his voice broke at 16.
  • He was now 14, and his voice was breaking.
  • What I didn't reckon on was that this hormonal upheaval was also going to result in my voice breaking.
5.8 Phonetics (Of a vowel) develop into a diphthong, under the influence of an adjacent sound: (as noun breaking) breaking due to a following r or h
More example sentences
  • In many (but not all) accents of English, a similar breaking happens to tense vowels before l.
  • Breaking of a short vowel gives a short diphthong.
  • There is a considerable variation in breaking between different dialects and different generations of speakers.
5.9(Of prices on the stock exchange) fall sharply.
Example sentences
  • If price breaks above the high, a bullish bias is adopted.
  • What traders want to confirm is that the price is indeed falling and will break back through the upper trendline.
  • The latest bear market is now in its ninth week, while the Dow has broken well below its post-11 September trough.
5.10(Of news or a scandal) suddenly become public: since the news broke I’ve received thousands of wonderful letters
More example sentences
  • He is said to have been regularly in tears since news of the scandal broke.
  • Since news of the scandal broke, the company has been forced to fire two of its executives and to demand the resignation of its chairman.
  • A federal investigator was on campus within 48 hours after news broke about the scandal.
erupt, break out
5.11 [with object] (break something to someone) Make bad news known to someone.
Example sentences
  • Referring to fatal accidents Chief Supt Carey added: ‘I have dealt with several fatal accidents and nobody can imagine what it is like having to break such terrible news to a family.’
  • I was just about to break the terrible news to her when her cat strolled casually around the corner of the house.
  • In an interview, she said doctors broke the news to them last week that their two-month-old tot Harvey had been born with a rare condition that means he will face a lifetime of darkness.
reveal, disclose, divulge, impart, tell;
announce, release
5.12Make the first stroke at the beginning of a game of billiards, pool, or snooker.
Example sentences
  • In each rack, you break, spot anything that went in, and take cueball in hand to begin the frame.
  • Ronnie O'Sullivan breaks to get the final underway but the opening frame proves a scrappy affair lasting half-an-hour.
  • He breaks and sits down without looking where the balls have spread.


1An interruption of continuity or uniformity: the magazine has been published without a break since 1950
More example sentences
  • Because of their short durations, the motor tests were not interrupted by breaks.
  • He was educated in local schools with intermittent breaks.
  • It can be a positive thing - adrenaline helps us get things done - but not if it continues without a break.
interruption, interval, gap, hiatus;
stop, stoppage, cessation
1.1An act of separating oneself from a state of affairs: a break with the past
More example sentences
  • This represented a break with 1900 years of complete Christian consensus.
  • In a break with tradition, the Welsh Rugby Union has decided to make tickets for Six Nations matches available to the general public via their internet site.
  • We may need to make a break with the past and with past evidence.
1.2A change in the weather: a week or so may pass without a break in the weather
More example sentences
  • The weather remained gloomy, with small breaks of sunshine.
  • After a week of waiting, there was a break in the weather.
  • Everywhere, the streets were filled with people, enjoying — at last — a break in the rain.
change, alteration, variation
1.3 [with modifier] A change of line, paragraph, or page: dotted lines on the screen show page breaks
More example sentences
  • In particular, he had to decide how to sequence the stories and ads on any given page, and when to put in line breaks.
  • How many page breaks can exist in a chapter?
  • He has made a fairly close, but not exact, approximation of page breaks, and preserved the numbering system fairly well.
1.4A change of tone in the voice due to emotion: there was a break in her voice now
More example sentences
  • I picked up on the urgency in her voice, detecting emotional breaks.
  • There was a break in her voice as if she were going to burst out crying.
  • There was a break in his voice when he bade farewell to the reporters.
1.5An interruption in an electrical circuit.
Example sentences
  • A dead light-bulb is a break in the circuit, so that will also stop the current.
  • A switch is a break in the circuit that stops the electrons from flowing.
  • The break in the electric circuit had not been closed by pressure on the trip wire.
1.6 (also break of serve or service break) Tennis The winning of a game against an opponent’s serve.
Example sentences
  • He is a model of calmness on court in the third set and secures the crucial break of serve in game seven
  • The 22-year-old crawled back to 3-4 with a service break in the seventh game.
  • The final set was decided by a single break of serve in the ninth game, achieved with a spectacular running forehand down the line.
2A pause in work or during an activity or event: I need a break from mental activity they take long coffee breaks those returning to work after a career break
More example sentences
  • And I really find that I put so much into it when I am painting that I have to take a break from it.
  • Taking a break from signing autographs, he seemed pleased with the way things had gone.
  • Students come here to eat, drink and take a break from school work.
2.1A short vacation: the Christmas break
More example sentences
  • While the number of Irish holidaymakers enjoying short breaks or full-week stays in the region was up, there was a drop-off in visitors from abroad.
  • I know that people travel from far and wide to enjoy short breaks and long holidays in our beautiful and historic city.
  • People are taking shorter holidays so city breaks are more popular.
2.2A short solo or instrumental passage in jazz or popular music.
Example sentences
  • She is a fine pianist, straddling jazz, pop and classical styles, and the instrumental breaks on her debut album are solid.
  • The song, with the addition of a long instrumental solo break, drove the lyrical quality of the song to the heart.
  • Tracks on the album tend to feature brief lyric verses interspersed with longer instrumental breaks.
3A gap or opening: the spectacular vistas occasionally offered by a break in the rainforest he stopped to wait for a break in the traffic
More example sentences
  • Towards the western end of the ramparts there is an obvious break where a path leads through rocky portals to gain a grassy bealach.
  • Eventually there came a break in the cloud below and I spotted a reservoir which I thought I recognized from a previous flight.
  • On the opposite shore, I could make out a small railway bridge through a break in the trees.
rift, schism, split, breakup, severance, rupture
4An instance of breaking; the point where something is broken: a break in the valve was being repaired
More example sentences
  • For instance, if the break is clean and not frayed, he knows the frame has been knocked off the wall.
  • The bird had a fractured leg where breaks commonly occur in leg trap injuries.
  • In severe breaks, the broken bone may be poking through the skin.
5A rush or dash in a particular direction, especially by an attacking player or team: he made a bounce pass for a basket on the break in the second quarter
More example sentences
  • In the first half he made several breaks to launch English attacks.
  • A single striker was aided by breaks from the wide players whenever they dared.
  • They combined as early as the third minute, a break by the scrum half putting Dixon through a gap to score.
5.1A breakout, especially from prison.
Example sentences
  • He said it was possible that weapons used in the prison break could have been introduced to the property through the gaping fence.
  • When local residents expressed concern after the prison break, the company simply shrugged it off.
  • Up to this point, two-thirds of the way in, the focus of the film was the actual prison break.
5.2A curve or drop in the path of a pitched baseball.
Example sentences
  • LHP Mike Holtz has such a big break on his curve, even righthanders can have trouble with it.
  • The curve has a sharp, top-to-bottom break, and the changeup has come along nicely.
  • He gets decent breaks on balls but has only an average arm.
6 informal An opportunity or chance, especially one leading to professional success: he got his break as an entertainer on a TV music hall show
More example sentences
  • For a young person like Jane, getting a break - an opportunity to prove her talent - is a huge issue.
  • The story that got me my break was published in an anthology by Vintage.
  • Those who pass out from her academy will be guaranteed an acting break.
7 Billiards & Snooker A player’s turn to make the opening shot of a game or a rack.
Example sentences
  • If you play it for a few hours, and if you develop some consistency in your break, your scores will improve greatly.
  • He tied the match anew at 7-7, but failed to pocket on his break in the 15th rack.
7.1A consecutive series of successful shots, scoring a specified number of points: a break of 83 put him in front for the first time
More example sentences
  • After scoring a break of 118 in the opening frame yesterday, he lost the next on black.
  • Equally, rather than widen pockets and make it easier for players to shoot consistently higher breaks, snooker's governing body have actually done the opposite.
  • He managed to knock in two century breaks - and a 62 for good measure - and was still outscored by his opponent.



break a leg!

theatrical slang Good luck!.
Example sentences
  • Break a leg, and I'll join you on stage when you give the cue.
  • ‘Break a leg,’ he whispered in my ear before releasing me.
  • ‘Break a leg!’ I call after her.

break bread

see bread.

break camp

see camp1.

break someone's heart

see heart.

break in two

Break into two parts: the slate fell from my hand and broke in two on the hard floor
More example sentences
  • He told her how his house had broken in two.
  • A plane breaks in two in midair; multi-colored thread denotes an explosion.
  • This can be done whether the ship is resting upside down, pitched at an angle or has broken in two.

break of day

Example sentences
  • On the open plains of Texas, I first learned the character of our country: sturdy and honest, and as hopeful as the break of day.
  • The woods are not welcoming at the break of day.
  • They come at the break of day as the sun is rising.

break ranks

see rank1.

break (someone's) serve (or service)

Win a game in a tennis match against an opponent’s service.
Example sentences
  • I don't think he broke Dent 's serve the entire match.
  • The 26-year-old dominated most of the match, breaking the Italian 's serve three times in a 6-1 first set, and again in her opening service game in the second.
  • At 6-6, Agassi was a point away from breaking his opponent's serve.

break step

see step.

break the back of

Do the hardest part of (a task): we’ve broken the back of the problem
More example sentences
  • They broke the back of the task by adding 81 runs in 16 overs for the first wicket.
  • They broke the back of their task with an opening stand of 111 in only 18 overs.
  • The grants from broke the back of the funding but raising the rest was still a real challenge.
10.1Overwhelm or defeat: I thought we really had broken the back of inflation
More example sentences
  • The resistance to the war at home broke the back of the government.
  • The wars over the Fair Housing Act were vicious and essentially broke the back of the civil rights consensus in the Democratic party.
  • His historic march to the sea was the campaign that broke the back of the Confederacy.

break the bank

see bank2.

break the ice

see ice.

break the mold

see mold1.

break wind

Release gas from the anus.
Example sentences
  • If you were in a room with me and Jake and one of us broke wind, would you know which one it was?
  • The mother of a 13-year-old boy yesterday said he was suspended from school for two days simply because he broke wind in a classroom.
  • What's the correct, polite thing to do when someone breaks wind in your presence?

give someone a break

[usually in imperative] informal Stop putting pressure on someone about something.
Example sentences
  • They wish you guys would give them a break and show them some respect.
  • Jess, give Amber a break, she's obviously upset.
  • ‘Please, I've only been a couple of minutes, it's Christmas, give us a break, please’.
(give me a break)15.1 Used to express contemptuous disagreement or disbelief about what has been said: He’s seven times as quick and he’s only 20 years old. Give me a break
More example sentences
  • ‘Oh please, give me a break,’ I rolled my eyes jokingly.
  • Would anyone genuinely expect serious electoral matters to be raised at a works meeting!? Come on, give me a break.
  • The French-speaking population has increased over five times in size in the last 150 years. Is that a dying language? Give me a break!

make a break for

Make a sudden dash in the direction of, typically in a bid to escape: he made a break for the door
More example sentences
  • Ryan thought about making a break for it, but there was no way he'd escape before getting a bullet in the back.
  • The orang-utan escaped by pulling a tile from the roof of the enclosure yesterday afternoon, then climbed through the hole to make a break for freedom.
  • Quick, someone create a diversion so I can make a break for the toilet and scribble a note from my mum excusing me from class.

make a clean break

Remove oneself completely and finally from a situation or relationship.
Example sentences
  • I do blame myself - I had made a clean break and got drawn into this situation again for no good reason.
  • They split up eight months ago over an old, and still unresolved, problem - Benjamin's refusal to make a clean break with Vanessa, a woman he no longer loves.
  • He decided that he needed a clean break and moved to a different town to start a new life.

those are (or them's) the breaks

North American informal That is the way things turn out.
Example sentences
  • If you just say something like ‘oh, well, them's the breaks,’ it's a clear sign that you don't have the intense passion to be a ‘Top Model.’
  • Sometimes they won't talk to me; that's the breaks.
  • I've really just given myself away to any of the fan community who may be reading this, but, well, them's the breaks!

Phrasal verbs


break away

(Of a person) escape from someone’s hold.
Example sentences
  • He was trying to break away from the officer and get at the other man.
  • The victim managed to break away from the assailants and ran off.
  • I broke away from Tobias, moving to attack again.
escape, get away, run away, flee, make off;
break free, break loose, get out of someone's clutches
informal cut and run
1.1Escape from the control of a person, group, or practice: an attempt to break away from the elitism that has dominated the book trade
More example sentences
  • She said the problem had its roots in teenagers, some of whom might have problems at home, trying to break away from parental control.
  • After the February Revolution the Church saw an opportunity to break away from state control without sacrificing the privileges which cooperation with the state had obtained.
  • Girls had to break away from the bonds of home and family to be free to do what they wanted.
leave, secede from, split off from, separate from, part company with, defect from
Politics cross the floor from
1.2(Of a competitor in a race) move into the lead.
Example sentences
  • However, at the start of the second lap five riders broke away stretching their lead to around 20 seconds.
  • But Australia and Germany broke away early on to move a lap ahead of the field.
  • With eight kilometers left in the race seven women broke away from the main peloton.
1.3(Of a material or object) become detached from its base, typically through decay or under force.
Example sentences
  • Antarctica, which is about twice the size of Australia, was connected to New Zealand until 90 million years ago, when New Zealand broke away and moved to its current position.
  • It is formed from snow falling in the interior of the Antarctic which compacts into ice. The ice sheet slowly moves towards the coast, eventually breaking away as icebergs which gradually melt into the sea.

break down

1(Of a machine or motor vehicle) suddenly cease to function: his van broke down
More example sentences
  • The washing machine broke down - again - over Christmas.
  • Leaving for class the next day, my car suddenly broke down.
  • If a particular washing machine broke down after seven months of normal use, it would seem probable that there was something wrong with it at the time of sale.
1.1(Of a person) have the vehicle they are driving cease to function: she broke down on the highway
More example sentences
  • Unlike the Paris to Dakar rally, where every car has a support vehicle, if we break down in the Sahara we'll be hitching our way out.
  • If you break down in the desert, stay with your vehicle and never try to do anything in the heat of the day.
  • If you do break down or have to abandon your vehicle, try to push it off the carriageway.
1.2(Of a relationship, agreement, or process) cease to continue; collapse: pay negotiations with management broke down
More example sentences
  • John is urging owners to pay more consideration to their animals' needs when their marriage or relationship breaks down.
  • Doctors have gone on strike after an agreement with management broke down.
  • After wage negotiations with hospital management broke down last week, the National Medical Workers Union last Thursday voted in favor of a strike.
fail, collapse, founder, fall through, disintegrate
informal fizzle out
1.3Lose control of one’s emotions when in a state of distress: if she had tried to utter a word, she would have broken down the old woman broke down in tears
More example sentences
  • He tried to keep calm, not wanting to lose control and break down in front of the man who was challenging him.
  • In December 1998 he broke down in tears after losing to a little - known rival from Hong Kong.
  • She was afraid she would lose herself and completely break down.
burst into tears;
lose control, be overcome, go to pieces, crumble, disintegrate
informal crack up, lose it
1.4(Of a person’s health or emotional control) fail or collapse: his health broke down under the strain of overwork
More example sentences
  • In the summer of 1927, the Indian prince's health broke down and he went to Switzerland to recuperate.
  • I nursed my wife for three-and-a-half years until my health broke down.
  • For the next ten years, until his health broke down, he worked with great zeal to establish a public system of elementary education, supervised by a national body of inspectors.
2Undergo chemical decomposition: waste products that break down into low-level toxic materials
More example sentences
  • Ozone also tends to be unstable and break down into dioxygen and nascent oxygen and to react readily with other substances.
  • Rather, large molecules tend to break down into smaller ones.
  • In the chemical reaction, compounds break down to form various gases.

break something down

1Demolish a door or other barrier: they had to get the police to break the door down figurative race barriers can be broken down by educational reform
More example sentences
  • No one was in the premises when police broke the door down, and detectives were today making further inquiries.
  • Eventually the police managed to break the door down, carry her out and bring her here to spend the night.
  • When two men inside refused to open the door, police broke it down.
knock down, kick down, smash in, pull down, tear down, demolish
2Separate something into parts: each tutorial is broken down into more manageable units
More example sentences
  • They broke it down into separate categories such as ‘moral authority’ and ‘crisis leadership.’
  • They are made up of 6-10 units that break your job down into separate functions that reflect the different things you do in your job.
  • To do it, you have to break the whole operation down into separate, understandable, manageable components.
divide, separate
2.1Analyze information: bar graphs show how the information can be broken down
More example sentences
  • It also sets out no guidelines on whether votes will be broken down by constituency or nation.
  • And one suspects that if the survey results were broken down by geographic region, it would be even less divisive in many red states.
  • But that changes when survey respondents are broken down by race.
analyze, categorize, classify, sort out, itemize, organize;
2.2Convert a substance into simpler compounds by chemical action: almost every natural substance can be broken down by bacteria
More example sentences
  • Complex chemical units are broken down into more simple substances.
  • When starches and refined sugars are eaten together and undergo fermentation they are broken down into carbon dioxide, acetic acid, alcohol and water.
  • Proteins are broken down into amino acids and fats are broken down into fatty acids.

break even

Reach a point in a business venture when the profits are equal to the costs.
Example sentences
  • But in the most recent quarter it barely broke even, reporting operating profit of just $5 million on sales of $1.1 billion.
  • Even in a growing economy, it takes five to seven years before a magazine breaks even or turns a profit.
  • The business is barely breaking even, and it's going to take extensive promotion and careful management to improve its performance.

break forth

Burst out suddenly; emerge.
Example sentences
  • Despite my effort, a sob broke forth from my lungs, and his eyes were suddenly upon me.
  • At last their feelings became too strong and broke forth in weeping and wailing, tears and groans, intermingled with shouts of glory and praise from some of the people of God.
  • A hoarse yell broke forth from some of the celebrants, a sign that her words were taking effect.

break free

another way of saying break away.
Example sentences
  • The plucky farmer is understood to have startled the thief who eventually broke free and made his escape to a waiting car.
  • He eventually managed to break free and fled nursing a battle-scarred arm.
  • During the struggle the victim managed to break free and fled to the bathroom where she locked herself in.

break in

1Force entry to a building: it sounded like someone trying to break in
More example sentences
  • The thieves broke in by forcing a casement window in the dining room before ransacking the house.
  • When no one answered, they broke in and searched the building, only to find a watchman sleeping at his post.
  • They broke in by forcing a lock on a door and then made off in a stolen car.
commit burglary, break and enter;
force one's way in
2 [with direct speech] Interject: “I don’t want to interfere,” Mrs. Hendry broke in
More example sentences
  • ‘We know that,’ broke in Chris.
  • The publicist, sitting between us in the back seat, broke in, ‘A friend of mine is the U. S. ambassador to France.’
  • ‘So where are we going to go now?’ she broke in.
interrupt, butt in, cut in, interject, interpose, intervene, chime in

break someone in

Familiarize someone with a new job or situation: there was no time to break in a new executive assistant
More example sentences
  • Initially, you are broken in gently, but too gently, for the first two campaigns are over before you have any real trouble.
  • Is this another way of breaking us in gently, as per your previous observations?
  • I figured they were breaking me in and not giving me a chance to think this would be an easy job.
train, initiate
informal show someone the ropes
(break a horse)8.1 Accustom a horse to a saddle and bridle, and to being ridden.
Example sentences
  • Many of the horses had not been broken in and it was difficult to round them up.
  • He next day, his son grappled with one of these wild horses and tried to break it in, and he got thrown and broke his leg.
  • She broke them in and she rode them and that is how she got into the British team.

break something in

Wear something, typically a pair of new shoes, until it becomes supple and comfortable.
Example sentences
  • To break your shoes in, wear them around your house for a few days.
  • Never, never wear new shoes without breaking them in at least a week ahead of time.
  • Shoes can become more comfortable once you break them in, but if they're not comfortable to begin with when you're trying them on in the store, chances are they will never be.

break in on

Interrupt: the doctor’s voice broke in on her thoughts
More example sentences
  • The seminar had barely begun when someone broke in on the meeting with the somber announcement: ‘A plane is down.’
  • Jerry's voice broke in on Vicki's thoughts.
  • Finally, he broke in on Adam's enthusiasm: ‘This is not the time to read,’ he said vehemently.

break into

1Enter or open a (place, vehicle, or container) forcibly, typically for the purposes of theft: four men broke into the house a friend of mine had his car broken into
More example sentences
  • In Italy, four armed burglars broke into a man's house.
  • While he parked at the Trafford Centre to buy a birthday present, thieves broke into the vehicle to seize the laptop, discs and a camera.
  • Residents on a York housing estate woke up to a scene of destruction after thieves broke into a string of vehicles in a private car park.
force one's way into
1.1Succeed in winning a share of (a market or a position in a profession): Japanese companies failed to break into the US personal-computer market
More example sentences
  • Australian exporters keen on breaking into the Japanese market can still find plenty of opportunities.
  • They can offer advice, support and expertise to help companies break into overseas markets.
  • It also showed that Chinese companies are serious about breaking into the European market.
1.2Interrupt (a conversation).
Example sentences
  • He had to break into the conversation to make a point.
  • They were all trying to find a way to break into the conversation.
  • She ignored his apprehension and broke into their conversation boldly.
interrupt, butt into, cut in on, intervene in
2(Of a person) suddenly or unexpectedly burst forth into (laughter or song).
Example sentences
  • The two girls broke into sudden and unexpected laughter.
  • This appeared to be some sort of private joke because they all suddenly broke into laughter.
  • I just hoped she wouldn't suddenly break into song.
2.1(Of a person’s face or mouth) relax into (a smile).
Example sentences
  • Her face brightened and her eyes lit up as her mouth broke into a smile.
  • To my astonishment, his usual calm smile broke into a wide mischievous grin.
  • Her face broke into an uneasy smile as she looked at him, standing tall at 6 feet, with a slim yet athletic build and a devilish glint in his eyes.
3Change one’s pace to (a faster one): Greg broke into a sprint
More example sentences
  • I keep my pace quite fast without breaking into a jog, just to get my heart rate up.
  • I broke into a sprint and ran the rest of the way home.
  • ‘Let's go,’ said Leon as he broke into a sprint, followed closely by his father and brother.

break off

Become severed: the fuselage had broken off just behind the pilot’s seat
More example sentences
  • It began life as a separate ice tongue roughly the size of Belgium before breaking off and floating into the Southern Ocean.
  • Every time I grabbed anything on the side of the rock to try to stop my descent, it broke off and came with me.
  • Two of the chairs legs broke off in a loud snap from the force of the blow.
snap off, come off, become detached, become separated
12.1Abruptly stop talking: she broke off, stifling a sob
More example sentences
  • Faith and Grace who had been telling him something, abruptly broke off, when Father got up and rushed over to me.
  • But he broke off when he remembered that he was talking to the enemy, not an ally.
  • As he was saying this, his son John appeared and he broke off.

break something off

Remove something from a larger unit or whole: Tucker broke off a piece of bread
More example sentences
  • Growing plants are influenced strongly by their environment - some leaves grow more strongly than others because of the light falling on them; some buds are chewed by herbivores, and whole branches are broken off.
  • You break pieces off, and one or two of the more co-operative chimps would come down.
  • You will probably have noticed that when you take a branch from certain trees (some conifers for example), the branch looks like a miniature version of the tree, and when you break a piece off the branch, that looks like a tree too.
snap off, pull off, sever, detach
13.1Discontinue talks or relations: the US threatened to break off diplomatic relations
More example sentences
  • The first attack took place after diplomatic relations had been broken off but before the formal declaration of war.
  • He has been engaged twice but both women broke it off abruptly before the wedding.
  • She temporarily broke the relationship off in the early stages, alarmed by the sudden intensity it had taken on.
end, terminate, stop, cease, call a halt to, finish, dissolve;
suspend, discontinue
informal pull the plug on

break something open

Open something forcibly.
Example sentences
  • The door was broken open from the inside, not the outside.
  • When Mr Moore got there, he claims he found a desk drawer had been broken open and went to the police with a complaint of illegal entry and theft.
  • The most common methods of theft, he said, involved thieves smashing windows, breaking locks open with a screwdriver or similar tool, or forcing metal doors open.

break out

(Of war, fighting, or similarly undesirable things) start suddenly: forest fires have broken out across Indonesia
More example sentences
  • The incident happened after a fight broke out between a group of up to six youngsters in the school's playground at about 8.45 am.
  • Police were called after fighting broke out among a group of around 40 men.
  • When war broke out he willingly fought for Britain, and before being sent to France he adopted a British name so that he would not be shot as a traitor if captured.
flare up, start suddenly, erupt, burst out
15.1(Of a physical discomfort) suddenly manifest itself: prickles of sweat had broken out along her backbone
More example sentences
  • A flush feeling came over my face as though I had suddenly broken out into a cold sweat.
  • You may suddenly break out into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
  • A sudden chill went down his spine, and sweat broke out on his hands and face.

break out in

(Of a person or a part of their body) be suddenly affected by an unpleasant sensation or condition: something had caused him to break out in a rash
More example sentences
  • Although it can kill if it enters the lungs, blister gas is used mainly to weaken infantry by making the skin break out in excruciatingly painful blisters.
  • The youngster's condition first emerged when she broke out in a rash while gnawing on a rusk.
  • Everyone I know has a new four wheel drive and suddenly the sight of my ageing Ford Focus makes me break out in a terrible rash.

break out of

Escape from: figurative executives looking to break out of the corporate hierarchy
More example sentences
  • Yes, and once you're in the prison system it's very hard to break out of it.
  • Eventually convicted, he broke out of jail and formed the Stander Gang, which sometimes robbed four banks a day.
  • Should they manage to escape, they are to be pursued as dangerous fugitives and charged in the same way as convicts who break out of high security jails.
escape from, abscond from, flee from;
get free of

break something out

informal Open and start using something: it was time to break out the champagne
More example sentences
  • We won't be doing handstands in the streets or breaking the champagne out.
  • Have board games handy, and break them out when things are dull.
  • Also, if you happen to have a private jet and an apartment in Paris, now's the time to break them out.

break through

Make or force a way through (a barrier): demonstrators attempted to break through the police lines the sun might break through in a few spots
More example sentences
  • One man reported that the security forces broke through the gates of his house and took away his two adult sons.
  • Arnold became obsessed with breaking through the pain barrier.
  • They are both quiet until the plane is up in the air, breaking through the barrier of clouds.
19.1(Of a person) achieve success in a particular area: so many talented players are struggling to break through
More example sentences
  • She is defending her seat against the advancing Conservatives, who broke through last year to take one of the ward's three seats.
  • It is probably her best album, certainly the one with which she broke through with critical acclaim and commercial success.
  • They've been up-and-down all season, finally breaking through with a ton of success lately.

break up

Disintegrate; disperse: the bones had broken up into minute fragments the gray clouds had begun to break up
More example sentences
  • The one mass of land began to break up, and the separating continents took with them living cargoes of animals.
  • Pumps were put on the vessel to keep it afloat so that local boats could try and tow it from the rocks but it began to break up after an hour and a half.
  • One of the workers, Sandile Matshini, tells of his lucky escape when a container in which he was sleeping was pulled up a hill as the ship began breaking up.
20.1(Of a gathering) disband; end.
Example sentences
  • There will even be powers for the police to break up public meetings and gatherings without the need for specific permission from the Home Office or any government minister or department.
  • The police clearly have orders to break up even the smallest gathering despite the fact that freedom of expression and assembly are constitutionally guaranteed.
  • Last March, he and other officers broke up a gathering near the scene of the crash.
end, finish, stop, terminate;
disperse, scatter, disband, part company
British 20.2 End the school term: we broke up for the summer
More example sentences
  • The Lowry should be in a class of its own when the schools break up for half term.
  • The school is expected to break up for the summer term today with many students sitting Leaving and Junior Cert exams next week.
  • Schools break up for their half term this Friday, October 22 and return on Tuesday, November 2.
20.3(Of a couple in a relationship) part company.
Example sentences
  • But our relationship soon fell apart and we broke up a couple weeks later.
  • We broke up a couple of years back and don't talk any more.
  • The couple broke up and the stress of life as a single mother pushed her to the brink of a nervous breakdown.
split up, separate, part, part company;
chiefly North American 20.4 Start laughing uncontrollably: the whole cast broke up
More example sentences
  • Everybody broke up laughing, according to the police reports - except, of course, Julius.
  • There were a couple of times we'd break up laughing when I'd catch someone turning to look at me in a wide shot.
burst out laughing, crack up, dissolve into laughter
chiefly North American 20.5 Become emotionally upset.

break someone up

chiefly North American Cause someone to become extremely upset.
Example sentences
  • Like all satirists from Juvenal on he is broken up about the march of folly.
  • Gordon had been crying for a week, but that song broke him up anew.
  • I cannot understand that, and it just breaks me up terribly.

break something up

Cause something to separate into pieces, parts, or sections: break up the chocolate, and place it in a bowl he intends to break the company up into strategic business units
More example sentences
  • I broke it up into four sections.
  • When it's frozen, bash it gently to break it up into pieces - it should look rough - and put them into tall glasses or pudding bowls.
  • The supplements are broken up into five sections.
22.1Bring a social event or meeting to an end by being the first person to leave: Richard was sorry to break up the party
More example sentences
  • Sorry to break the party up but I need to steal your friend away.
  • Alright people, sorry to break it up but Kate has an important session to go through right now.
  • ‘I hate to break this party up but Michelle has a class to get back to,’ he told them.
22.2Disperse or put an end to a gathering: police broke up a demonstration in the capital
More example sentences
  • On the second day, the gathering was broken up by the police, but not before the charter was adopted as a guiding document.
  • The protests were broken up by police and militias.
  • Meanwhile, a further protest against the summit was broken up by police.
disperse, scatter, disband

break with

Quarrel or cease relations with (someone): he had broken with his family long before
More example sentences
  • When they decided this, I made my decision to make a break with the National Health Service.
  • He openly broke with Lee when he defined China-Taiwan relations as ‘state-to-state’.
  • For the most part this involved a decisive break with old Labour.
23.1Act in a way that is not in accordance with (a custom or tradition).
Example sentences
  • The Community Games broke with tradition in holding a cross country event where boys and girls competed in the same race.
  • He broke with tradition when he embarked on a theatrical career.
  • The musical broke with tradition: there was no chorus and precious little plot.


Old English brecan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch breken and German brechen, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin frangere 'to break'.

Words that rhyme with break

ache, awake, bake, betake, Blake, brake, cake, crake, drake, fake, flake, forsake, hake, Jake, lake, make, mistake, opaque, partake, quake, rake, sake, shake, sheikh, slake, snake, splake, stake, steak, strake, take, undertake, wake, wideawake

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: break

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There are 2 main definitions of break in English:

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break 2

Pronunciation: /breɪk/

Entry from British & World English dictionary


1 Former term for breaking cart.
2 historical another term for brake2.


Mid 19th century: perhaps from 16th-century brake 'cage', later 'framework', of unknown origin.

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Line breaks: break

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