noun (1)
\ ˈbrāk How to pronounce brake (audio) \

Definition of brake

 (Entry 1 of 6)

1 : a device for arresting or preventing the motion of a mechanism usually by means of friction apply the brakes took his foot off the brake
2 : something used to slow down or stop movement or activity use interest rates as a brake on spending


braked; braking

Definition of brake (Entry 2 of 6)

intransitive verb

1 : to operate or manage a brake especially : to apply the brake on a vehicle brake around the curves
2 : to become checked by a brake The train braked to a stop.

transitive verb

: to slow or stop by or as if by a brake (see brake entry 1) braking a tractor


noun (2)

Definition of brake (Entry 3 of 6)

botany : the common bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum)


noun (3)

Definition of brake (Entry 4 of 6)

1 : a toothed instrument or machine for separating out the fiber of flax or hemp by breaking up the woody parts
2 : a machine for bending, flanging, folding, and forming sheet metal


noun (4)

Definition of brake (Entry 5 of 6)

geography : rough or marshy land overgrown usually with one kind of plant cedar brakes coastal brakes


Definition of brake (Entry 6 of 6)

archaic past tense of break

Other Words from brake

Noun (1)

brakeless \ ˈbrā-​kləs How to pronounce brake (audio) \ adjective

Noun (4)

braky \ ˈbrā-​kē How to pronounce brake (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for brake

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun (4)

Antonyms: Verb

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Break and Brake: Remembering Which Is Which

It can be hard to apply these words correctly: they sound exactly the same, and their spellings aren't easily connected to their meanings. One of the pair, however, is quite limited in scope, and focusing on when to apply that one can be key.

When the subject is slowing or stopping movement, the word to use is brake. Brake is both a noun, as in "put on the brakes" and "took my foot off the brake," and a verb, as in "brake at the stop sign" and "I brake for moose." As a noun, it's also used before other nouns: "brake fluid," "brake pedal." As in these examples, the word is used in contexts relating to cars, bicycles, and other vehicles. It's also used figuratively, however, to talk about the slowing or stopping of activity, as in "putting the brakes on spending."

Break also functions as both a noun and a verb, and it's the word you want in all other contexts, such as when the topic is something separating into parts or pieces ("the plate will break if it falls," "break a leg," "a bad break"), being damaged to the point of no longer working ("break a watch"), failing to do what is promised ("break a promise"), or referring to a time during which activity stops ("take a break").

If you have difficulty keeping these straight and are inclined to think in pictures, you might want to imagine a foot nestled in the top of the k in brake, pressing that top line down onto the e, which isn't saying a thing, because the k has put the brakes on.

Examples of brake in a Sentence

Verb I had to brake suddenly when a cat ran in front of the car. braked the car sharply when someone pulled out in front of us

First Known Use of brake

Noun (1)

circa 1782, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1868, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (3)

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (4)

1562, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for brake

Noun (1) and Verb

perhaps from obsolete brake bridle

Noun (2)

Middle English, fern, probably back-formation from braken bracken

Noun (3)

Middle English, from Middle Low German; akin to Old English brecan to break

Noun (4)

Middle English -brake

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Time Traveler for brake

Time Traveler

The first known use of brake was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near brake



brake band

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Cite this Entry

“Brake.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for brake


\ ˈbrāk How to pronounce brake (audio) \

Kids Definition of brake

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a device for slowing or stopping motion (as of a wheel) usually by friction


braked; braking

Kids Definition of brake (Entry 2 of 2)

: to slow or stop by using a brake I had to brake suddenly.

More from Merriam-Webster on brake

Nglish: Translation of brake for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of brake for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about brake


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