Definition of burst in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /bəːst/

verb (past and past participle burst)

[no object]
1Break open or apart suddenly and violently, especially as a result of an impact or internal pressure: one of the balloons burst the dam burst after days of torrential rain
More example sentences
  • It swells considerably and has to be pricked with a needle to release the internal pressure and avoid bursting.
  • Hoses that burst apart under pressure, or leaked copiously, were another problem faced by fire fighters.
  • The pain and agony she kept within her ruptured forth, much like an overflowing dam that finally burst under excruciating pressure.
explode, blow up, detonate, go off, be set off, land
informal go bang
1.1 [with object] Cause to burst: he burst the balloon the swollen river was expected to burst its banks
More example sentences
  • Frost expands the water in clay soils, which bursts the heavy clods apart.
  • The authority might be able to take some measures to cut the risk of properties being inundated when the beck bursts its banks, a leading councillor has revealed.
  • This is in sharp contrast to the rainy season, when the raging water yearly bursts its banks and floods thousands of houses near the river.
1.2Be so full as almost to break open: the wardrobe was bursting with piles of clothes
More example sentences
  • This time, the section was full to bursting with interesting stuff.
  • I think it's time we sorted out the kitchen cupboards, they're all full to bursting with even more stuff piled on top.
  • As his mouth was stuffed full to bursting with food, he was barely coherent.
1.3Feel a very strong or irrepressible emotion or impulse: he was bursting with joy and excitement [with infinitive]: she was bursting to say something
More example sentences
  • I'm bursting with much emotion here, so please bear with me if it sounds like I'm rambling like a mad man!
  • Splendidly pretty and bursting with emotion, this song is the work of a grown-up songwriter who still isn't afraid to cry.
  • His features were deadpan but his voice was bursting with emotion.
2Issue suddenly and uncontrollably: the words burst from him in an angry rush
More example sentences
  • He saw Ken's soft, caring eyes squeeze shut and watched as nervous tears uncontrollably burst from them.
  • I stood on the front step of the cottage, tears threatening to burst from my eyes as Sol and I said goodbye.
  • Tears burst from his own eyes and he ended up gripping his little son more for his benefit than the boy's.
2.1Open suddenly and forcibly: a door burst open and a girl raced out
More example sentences
  • Suddenly the door bursts open, a gust of wind blows snow into the room, and a man with a bushy beard and camel-skin tunic strides in.
  • Suddenly the front door burst open and Zax came running in.
  • Suddenly the doors burst open and Marguerite jumped with fear.
2.2 [with adverbial of direction] Move suddenly and violently: he burst into the room without knocking figurative she burst on to the British art scene in 1985
More example sentences
  • He didn't move when Tina burst into the room, her usual bubbly self.
  • As he burst forward, I moved to close him down but I only succeeded in getting a toe to the ball.
  • Beverly suddenly burst into the room, looking livid, as always.
plunge, charge, barge, shove, plough, lurch, hurtle, career, rush, dash, tear
3Suddenly begin doing or producing something: Sophie burst out laughing she burst into tears the aircraft burst into flames
More example sentences
  • Her friend nodded wordlessly, and the two of them burst into tears and began hugging each other.
  • My sister was standing at the sink attacking our mountain of dirty dishes when she suddenly burst out laughing.
  • Suddenly he burst out laughing, making total strangers jump in shock.
break out in, launch into, erupt in, have a fit of;
suddenly start
exclaim, blurt out, ejaculate, cry out, call out, shout, yell
suddenly start
4 [with object] Separate (continuous stationery) into single sheets.
Example sentences
  • A folding forms tray is provided to hold forms to be burst.
  • It is desirable that bursting apparatus be capable of properly bursting all business forms used.
  • This burster will burst and trim over 1,000 11-in. (279mm) deep forms in less than 10 minutes, and is ideally suited to processing short runs.


1An instance of breaking or splitting as a result of internal pressure or puncturing; an explosion: the mortar bursts were further away than before
More example sentences
  • She jumps when the small explosive bursts, splitting the wood in half as intended, and Ted smiles, laughs, and then walks her through the process again.
  • A burst of force broke the ground next to them, and a huge, snake-like creature sprouted above ground.
  • The blast was followed by smaller grenade explosions and bursts of automatic fire that lasted for several minutes.
rupture, breach, split, blowout
explosion, detonation, blast, discharge, eruption, bang
volley, salvo, fusillade, barrage, discharge, shower, spray, hail, rain
2A sudden brief outbreak: a burst of activity bursts of laughter
More example sentences
  • A sudden burst of laughter was heard as David almost fell down.
  • A sudden burst of laughter spurted out of Leanne's mouth and the group joined along.
  • He uses sonic cues and sudden bursts of noise (laughter, yelling, the blast of a gun) to suggest and confirm the nature of the story.
outbreak, outburst, eruption, flare-up, explosion, blow-up, blast, blaze, attack, fit, spasm, paroxysm, access, rush, gale, flood, storm, hurricane, torrent, outpouring, surge, upsurge, spurt, effusion, outflow, outflowing, welling up
informal splurt
rare ebullition, boutade
2.1A sudden issuing forth: her breath was coming in short bursts
More example sentences
  • IT has been designed to depict the explosive burst of speed at the firing of a sprinter's starting pistol.
  • I won't even delve into the profanities this elicited in explosive bursts as I read his latest missive taking me to task for this or that.
  • For a start, Tyson in his distant prime attacked in explosive bursts of four, five or six punches, sequences demanding timing and vigour long beyond his capacity.
3A period of continuous and intense effort: he sailed 474 miles in one 24-hour burst
More example sentences
  • A well-taught boxing circuit class, which involves intense bursts of skipping, abdominal exercises, sparring and bag work, is a fast way to shed excess pounds.
  • They tend to work in fairly intense bursts and argue that entitlements such as time and a half will add 2.5 to 3 percent to their wage bills.
  • They, and the man taking their pictures, are snatching moments between bursts of intense, backbreaking work.


burst someone's bubble

see bubble.
Example sentences
  • The other part of me was worried that Betty might not believe me, or even if she did, might resent me for being the one to burst her bubble and it could ruin the close relationship we now shared.
  • But when it comes right to your doorstep and bursts your bubble, well that's a different story.
  • Men may like to keep this myth going, but I'm bursting your bubble, boys.


Old English berstan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch bersten, barsten.

  • bust from mid 17th century:

    Originally bust referred only to sculpture, usually a piece of sculpture representing a person's head, shoulders, and chest. The term came into English in the 17th century through French from Italian busto. The Latin source of the Italian word was bustum ‘a tomb, sepulchral monument’. When in the early 18th century a living person was described as having a bust, there was usually some comparison with marble or a sculpture. It was not until the later 19th century that the word appeared in the context of dress and fashion, and the measurement of a woman's bosom for clothing sizes. The bust, meaning ‘to break’ is a mid 18th-century US variant of Old English burst.

Words that rhyme with burst

accursed, curst, erst, first, headfirst, Hurst, thirst, under-rehearsed, unrehearsed, unversed, verst, worst, wurst

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: burst

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.