There are 2 main definitions of tear in English:


Line breaks: tear
Pronunciation: /tɛː

verb (past tore /tɔː/; past participle torn /tɔːn/)

1 [with object and adverbial] Pull (something) apart or to pieces with force: I tore up the letter figurative a nation torn asunder by political pressures
More example sentences
  • His body was torn apart and pieces of mangled flesh were sent in all directions.
  • It's only a matter of time before the spell's protection will fade and her human body be torn apart by the force of gravity, so Orphen has to act quickly.
  • Shane started to scribble on a piece of tissue, when Max grabbed it and tore it into pieces.
rip up, rip in two, pull apart, pull to pieces, shred
1.1Remove by pulling forcefully: he tore up the floorboards
More example sentences
  • As he tore off the pull tab, brown foam gushed out over his hand and down the front of his work togs.
  • Each night, when Em said good night, she tore off a page so Margaret could keep track of the date.
  • His face was dark and angry, and in one motion, he tore off his vest, and pulled me around, letting me see.
snatch, grab, seize, rip, wrench, wrest, pull, pluck
informal yank
1.2 [with object] Make a hole or split in (something) by pulling it or piercing it with a sharp implement: she was always tearing her clothes
More example sentences
  • The quake was so massive, the ground cracked, houses split, roads were torn.
  • The edges of the hole snagged and tore his robes, scratching him all over.
  • Her black hair got tangled in overhanging vines and brambles tugged at her clothes, tearing them in small rips and holes, and sometimes managing to scratch her across the face.
rip, ladder, snag
lacerate, cut (open), cut to pieces, cut to ribbons, gash, slash, scratch, claw, mangle, mutilate, hack, pierce, stab;
injure, wound
1.3Make (a hole or split) in something by force: the blast tore a hole in the wall
More example sentences
  • The blast tore a hole in the floor of the car under the driver's seat.
  • The blast at the consulate tore a hole in the ground six feet deep and nine feet wide and set trees on fire.
  • Though they came close when they stole a crane and deposited a Volkswagen Beetle in the Guest room by dint of tearing a huge hole in the roof.
1.4 [no object] Come apart; rip: the material wouldn’t tear
More example sentences
  • Avoid plastic because of discomfort and their tendency to tear quickly, thus decreasing their usefulness.
  • It began to tear slowly but not quickly enough as we collapsed onto the wood and rolled across the splintered planks.
1.5 [with object] Damage (a muscle or ligament) by overstretching it: he tore a ligament playing squash
More example sentences
  • My left quad muscles were completely torn, including the ligaments.
  • With enough force, the coracoclavicular ligaments also will be torn, and the deltotrapezial fascia injured or detached.
  • He accidentally put his right hand through a glass door, tearing tendons and ligaments and putting him out of the sport for eight months, just as his talent was starting to bloom.
2 [no object, with adverbial of direction] informal Move very quickly in a reckless or excited manner: she tore along the footpath on her bike
More example sentences
  • Gravel sprayed behind him as he tore along the drive, aiming for the great iron gates ahead.
  • After applying a little lipstick in front of the mirror quickly, I tore down the hallway, Angelina at my heals.
  • Through the billowing spray their sails can be seen far out in the deep swell, tearing along at improbable speed and leaping high over the waves.
sprint, race, run, dart, rush, dash, hasten, hurry, scurry, scuttle, scamper, hare, bolt, bound, fly, gallop, career, charge, pound, shoot, hurtle, speed, streak, flash, whizz, zoom, sweep, go like lightning, go hell for leather, go like the wind
informal pelt, scoot, hotfoot it, leg it, belt, zip, whip, go like a bat out of hell, step on it, get a move on, get cracking, put on some speed, stir one's stumps
British informal go like the clappers, bomb, bucket
Scottish informal wheech
North American informal boogie, hightail it, barrel, get the lead out
informal , dated cut along
archaic post, hie
3 (be torn) Be in a state of uncertainty between two conflicting options or parties: he was torn between his duty and his better instincts
More example sentences
  • When his best friend gets involved in a street clash, Ricky is torn between past loyalties and his desire to start a new life with his girlfriend.
  • Frightened and isolated, his letter shows his confusion as he is torn between denial and acceptance.
  • As a popularly elected leader, he was torn between the opposing demands of different sections of society, and in the end satisfied nobody.
torment, torture, rack, harrow, wring, lacerate
literary rend


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A hole or split in something caused by it having been pulled apart forcefully: there was a tear in her frock
More example sentences
  • The photographs show tears in fabric pulled apart to look like wounds, or pieces of metal depicted so they seem organic.
  • I cut out almost two dozen over the next 10 minutes, rolling and stretching where I must, patching a hole, a tear, a crack.
  • Every few moments he checked the cloud cover for punctures or tears, any hole that might afford him a glimpse.
rip, hole, split, rent, cut, slash, slit;
ladder, run, snag


Old English teran, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch teren and German zehren, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek derein 'flay'. The noun dates from the early 17th century.


tear one's hair out

informal Feel extreme desperation: dealers are tearing their hair out trying to match customers with cars
More example sentences
  • Security shuts the palace down and our producer is tearing his hair out, desperate to test the rocket the Queen is to launch at the start of the fireworks display.
  • It's enough to make any sane person tear their hair out in desperation.
  • That's why we're all tearing our hair out over wrong bills.

tear someone off a strip (or tear a strip off someone)

British informal Rebuke someone angrily: when he realized it was all a put-up job he tore a strip off Julie
More example sentences
  • There's the part when Borchardt is dumped by his girlfriend, the part where his ex-wife tears a strip off him, the part where Uncle Bill is too weak to get out of the bath on his own.
  • Might be home earlier than usual though, so feel free to tear me off a strip.
  • I was going to tear a strip off them for being unpatriotic when our political corr revealed it was simply their own anti-gay protest because the anthem has been hijacked by the likes of Graham Norton.
reprimand, rebuke, scold, admonish, reprove, upbraid, chastise, chide, censure, castigate, lambaste, berate, lecture, criticize, take to task, read the Riot Act to, haul over the coals
informal tell off, give someone a telling-off, dress down, give someone a dressing-down, bawl out, pitch into, lay into, lace into, blow up at, give someone a piece of one's mind, give someone an earful, give someone a roasting, give someone a rocket, give someone a rollicking
British informal have a go at, carpet, give someone what for, let someone have it
North American informal chew out, ream out
British vulgar slang bollock, give someone a bollocking

that's torn it

British informal Used to express dismay when something unfortunate has happened to disrupt one’s plans: Oops, that’s torn it. Costa Rica have scored again
More example sentences
  • ‘Oh crikey, that's torn it,’ she thought, but looked up to find all eyes fixed on a line of grotesques trooping into view.

Phrasal verbs

tear someone/thing apart

1Destroy something, especially good relations between people: a bloody civil war had torn the country apart
More example sentences
  • It would, perhaps, be an exaggeration to say that the worsening Hindu-Muslim divide in India threatens to tear the country apart, but certainly relations between the country's two major communities are as bad as they have ever been.
  • I imagine that sort of thing ruins lives, destroys marriages, tears families apart, and so on.
  • For example, in some cases, as $m rises past some optimum, the flow of energy starts to tear the system apart, to destroy order.
divide, split, split down the middle, sever, break apart, disunite, rupture
literary rend, rip asunder, cleave
2Upset someone greatly: stop crying—it’s tearing me apart
More example sentences
  • She tore me apart, demeaning me and bruising my ego greatly.
  • The fact that Sen would be getting hurt in the end tore him apart.
  • Leaving this life and Hannah behind - the thought was already hurting him, tearing him apart.
3Criticize someone or something harshly: Mum tore us apart with a real tongue-lashing
More example sentences
  • Critic Pauline Kael tore Gimme Shelter apart, charging that the Maysles, along with editor and co-director Charlotte Zwerin, were involved in arranging the entire debacle, and that the resulting film was a sham.
  • Afterward, half-a-dozen young philosophy students went up to her and, being incredibly nasty and critical, tore her apart for the way she had delivered the talk.
  • Our worst fears about the more extreme critics tearing CIA apart when the new administration came in proved groundless.

tear oneself away

[often with negative] Leave despite a strong desire to stay: she couldn’t tear herself away from the view
More example sentences
  • If you just can't tear yourself away, consider staying for dinner in the Ahwahnee Dining Room (jackets required).
  • I tore myself away for a moment to find the remote control.
  • So, I finally tore myself away from the newspaper.

tear someone/thing down

1Demolish something, especially a building: they tore down an old barn for lumber
More example sentences
  • India grows more prosperous, the outside world enters willy-nilly, old buildings are torn down.
  • Now Croydon was much like I remembered it, only some of the old buildings had been torn down and other buildings put up.
  • Old, rundown buildings are torn down to make way for the new.
2US informal Criticize or punish someone severely: they tear a man down and threaten him and then they give him another chance
More example sentences
  • There's a lot here we don't know but there's some that we've learned in recent weeks that does suggest that they really were out to get Wilson or criticize him or tear him down a bit.
  • Or was he a cruel and egotistical monster who tore people down to build himself up?
  • I was so successful that they tore me down because my album was at number 2 instead of number 1.

tear into

1Attack verbally: she tore into him: ‘Don’t you realize what you’ve done to me?’
More example sentences
  • Nasser Hussain had a reputation for verbally tearing into his bowlers, and Hoggard was one of his victims.
  • Dáily Mirror columnist Sue Carroll tore into Jonsson's decision not to name her attacker.
  • The Tracey Review tore into Captain Toohey's reasoning and his explosive conclusions, and this is the report the Government released last night.
attack, assail, hit, strike, let fly at, lay into, lash out at, set about, set upon, fall on, turn on, assault, beat, thrash, pound, pummel, wallop, hammer, pounce on, round on, pelt, drub;
rebuke, reprimand, reproach, reprove, admonish, remonstrate with, chastise, chide, upbraid, take to task, pull up, castigate, lambaste, read someone the Riot Act, give someone a piece of one's mind, go on at, haul over the coals, criticize, censure
informal lace into, sail into, pitch into, let someone have it, get stuck into, paste, do over, knock about/around, rough up
British informal have a go at
2Make an energetic or enthusiastic start on: a jazz trio are tearing into the tune with gusto
More example sentences
  • Holding the edge following a 9-8 triumph at Meadowbank a year ago, the Scots tore into attack.
  • And it was the solid base provided by Nash and his defensive colleagues that enabled City's attackers to tear into Norwich in the second half.
  • The 33-year-old Kaluwitharana, playing his first Test in two years, justified his selection by tearing into the Kiwi attack with 13 boundaries.



More example sentences
  • Each first tearable line of separation is offset with respect to the second tearable line of separation.
  • Tena Pants Plus are put on just like normal underwear, but have a tearable side seam to make them easy to remove.
  • Pro-Gaff is waterproof, abrasion resistant, and has a smooth, controlled unwind, and is hand tearable.


More example sentences
  • ‘Good evening, enjoy your movie,’ the ticket tearer said robotically.
  • A relatively longer time has probably elapsed before the tearer managed to take hold of these fibres.
  • This ticket tearer could very well design a new type of car, or write a best-selling book, if they had the time.

Definition of tear in:

There are 2 main definitions of tear in English:


Line breaks: tear
Pronunciation: /tɪə


A drop of clear salty liquid secreted from glands in a person’s eye when they cry or when the eye is irritated: a tear rolled down her cheek she burst into tears and stormed off
More example sentences
  • I snort, not knowing whether to burst into tears or roll on the ground, howling with laughter.
  • I watched as several of my colleagues panicked or burst into tears.
  • And for the first year or two, you burst into tears at times when you run into a reminder of it, and then the Lord kind of heals you.


[no object] Back to top  
US (Of the eye) produce tears: the freezing wind made her eyes tear
More example sentences
  • Her face was red and I imagined her eyes were tearing from the pressure.
  • My face was red, I couldn't breathe and my eyes were tearing.
  • I had a tremendous feeling of fear, cold chills, and my eyes were tearing up.


Old English tēar, of Germanic origin; related to German Zähre, from an Indo-European root shared by Old Latin dacruma (Latin lacrima) and Greek dakru.


in tears

Crying: he was so hurt by her attitude he was nearly in tears
More example sentences
  • When the former bride finally saw an image of the painting, she was nearly in tears.
  • I kept falling over, and in places I got so annoyed with myself that I was nearly in tears.
  • Police said afterwards that Mr Croxford's family was in tears and too upset to talk to the press.

without tears

(Of a subject) presented so as to be learned or achieved easily: tennis without tears
[first used in the titles of books by F. L. Mortimer, such as Reading without Tears (1857) and Latin without Tears (1877)]
More example sentences
  • Seminars will tackle issues such as funding business growth, reducing business risk, running IT systems without tears and best practice for human resource management.
  • Read the Revenue's six tips on completing your Return without tears and the ten most common Tax Return mistakes, and get it right next time!
  • The result is history without tears, something palatable and likely to be highly popular, but it isn't in essence a perversion of the truth.



More example sentences
  • This image is echoed later when the image of David falling from the Cybertronics building is reflected in Joe's amphibicopter bubble, forming a tear-like streak down his face.
  • This is how the tear-like moisturizers work with your lenses.
  • It is the only all-in-one solution available with two tear-like moisturizers that provide unsurpassed all-day comfort.


adjective (tearier, teariest)
More example sentences
  • It will, one imagines, be a teary affair whatever the result.
  • A raised eyebrow, a frown, a stoical stare or a teary tremble make him more of a character than many of the cardboard figures in a Hollywood epic.
  • The knocking continues and I walk slowly, trembling and teary, down the long, dark hallway in our new flat.

Definition of tear in: