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noun \ˈtir\

Definition of tear

  1. 1a :  a drop of clear saline fluid secreted by the lacrimal gland and diffused between the eye and eyelids to moisten the parts and facilitate their motionb plural :  a secretion of profuse tears that overflow the eyelids and dampen the face

  2. 2 :  a transparent drop of fluid or hardened fluid matter (as resin)

  3. 3 plural :  an act of weeping or grieving <broke into tears>

tear·less adjective

Examples of tear

  1. And thus he would die—out in the cold world, with no shelter over his homeless head. … And thus SHE would see him when she looked out upon the glad morning, and oh! would she drop one little tear upon his poor, lifeless form, would she heave one little sigh to see a bright young life so rudely blighted, so untimely cut down? —Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, 1876

Origin of tear

Middle English, from Old English tæhher, tēar; akin to Old High German zahar tear, Greek dakry

First Known Use: before 12th century



intransitive verb \ˈtir\

Definition of tear

  1. :  to fill with tears (see 1tear) :  shed tears <eyes tearing in the November wind — Saul Bellow>

Origin of tear

(see 1tear)

First Known Use: before 12th century



verb \ˈter\

Definition of tear

tore play \ˈtȯr\ torn play \ˈtȯrn\ tear·ing

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1a :  to separate parts of or pull apart by force :  rendb :  to wound by or as if by pulling apart by force :  lacerate <tear the skin>

  3. 2 :  to divide or disrupt by the pull of contrary forces <a mind torn with doubts>

  4. 3a :  to remove by force :  wrench —often used with off <tear a cover off a box>b :  to remove as if by wrenching <tear your thoughts away from the scene>

  5. 4 :  to make (a hole or opening) by or as if by pulling apart by force <tear a hole in the wall>

  6. intransitive verb
  7. 1 :  to separate on being pulled :  rend <this cloth tears easily>

  8. 2a :  to move or act with violence, haste, or force <went tearing down the street>b :  to smash or penetrate something with violent force <the bullet tore through his leg>

tear·able play \ˈter-ə-bəl\ adjective
tear·er noun
tear at
  1. :  to cause anguish to :  distress <her grief tore at his heart>

tear into
  1. :  to attack without restraint or caution

tear it
  1. :  to cause frustration, defeat, or an end to plans or hopes <that tears it>

tear one's hair
  1. :  to pull one's hair as an expression of grief, rage, frustration, desperation, or anxiety; also :  to feel or display such an emotion

Origin of tear

Middle English teren, from Old English teran; akin to Old High German zeran to destroy, Greek derein to skin, Sanskrit dṛṇāti he bursts, tears

First Known Use: before 12th century

Synonym Discussion of tear

tear, rip, rend, split, cleave, rive mean to separate forcibly. tear implies pulling apart by force and leaving jagged edges <tear up the letter>. rip implies a pulling apart in one rapid uninterrupted motion often along a line or joint <ripped the shirt on a nail>. rend implies very violent or ruthless severing or sundering <an angry mob rent the prisoner's clothes>. split implies a cutting or breaking apart in a continuous, straight, and usually lengthwise direction or in the direction of grain or layers <split logs for firewood>. cleave implies very forceful splitting or cutting with a blow <a bolt of lightning cleaved the giant oak>. rive occurs most often in figurative use <a political party riven by conflict>.



noun \ˈter\

Definition of tear

  1. 1a :  damage from being torn (see 3tear); especially :  a hole or flaw made by tearing <mending a tear in her skirt>b :  the act of tearing something

  2. 2a :  a hurried and violent rush :  a tearing pace <the train went by at a tear>b :  spree <got paid and went on a tear>c :  a run of unusual success <the team was on a tear>

Origin of tear

(see 3tear)

First Known Use: 1611

Seen and Heard

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February 13, 2016

a trying or distressing experience

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