verb \ˈbrāk\

Definition of break


play \ˈbrōk\;


play \ˈbrō-kən\;


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1a :  to separate into parts with suddenness or violence broke a plate Break the chocolate bar in half.b (1) :  fracture break a bone (2) to fracture a bone of (a bodily part) the blow broke her arm (3) to dislocate or dislocate and fracture a bone of (the neck or back)c :  to cause an open wound in :  rupture break the skind :  to cut into and turn over the surface of break the soile :  to render inoperable broke his watch

  3. 2a :  violate, transgress break the law break a promise breaking conventionsb law :  to invalidate (a will) by action under the provisions of the law

  4. 3a archaic :  to force entry intob :  to burst and force a way through break the sound barrier break a racial barrierc :  to escape by force from break jaild :  to make or effect by cutting, forcing, or pressing through break a trail through the woods

  5. 4 :  to disrupt the order or compactness of break formation

  6. 5 :  to make ineffective as a binding force break the spell

  7. 6a :  to defeat utterly and end as an effective force :  destroy used starvation to break the enemyb :  to crush the spirit of brutal methods broke the prisonerc :  to make tractable or submissive: such as (1) past participle often broke :  to train (an animal) to adjust to the service or convenience of humans equipment used to break horses a halter-broke horse (2) :  inure, accustomd :  to exhaust in health, strength, or capacity broken by his struggle for power

  8. 7a :  to stop or bring to an end suddenly :  halt break a deadlock breaking a bad habit decided to break off all ties to the organizationb :  interrupt, suspend break the silence with a cryc :  to open and bring about suspension of operation break an electric circuitd :  to destroy unity or completeness of break a dining room set by buying a chaire :  to change the appearance of uniformity of a dormer breaks the level rooff :  to split the surface of could see fish breaking waterg :  to cause to discontinue a habit tried to break him of smoking

  9. 8a :  to make known :  tell break the bad news gentlyb :  to bring to attention or prominence initially radio stations breaking new musicians break a news story

  10. 9a :  to ruin financially break the bankb :  to reduce in rank broken from sergeant to private

  11. 10a :  to split into smaller units, parts, or processes :  divide Break the grammar lesson into digestible chunks. break a word at the end of a lineb (1) :  to give or get the equivalent of (a bill) in smaller denominations Can you break a fifty? (2) :  to use as the denomination in paying a bill didn't want to break a $20 bill —often used with into, up, or down

  12. 11a :  to check or slow the speed, force, or intensity of The bushes broke his fall. without breaking her strideb :  to cause failure and discontinuance of (a strike) by measures outside bargaining processes

  13. 12 :  to cause a sudden significant decrease in the price, value, or volume of news likely to break the market sharply

  14. 13a :  exceed, surpass break the recordb golf :  to score less than (a specified total) trying to break 90c tennis :  to win against (an opponent's service)d football :  to make (a run) by getting past defenders broke a 20-yard run

  15. 14 firearms :  to open the action of (a breechloader)

  16. 15a :  to find an explanation or solution for :  solve the detective broke the caseb :  to discover the essentials of (a code or cipher system)

  17. 16 :  to demonstrate the falsity of break an alibi

  18. 17 :  to ruin the prospects of could make or break her career

  19. 18 :  to produce visibly barely breaks a sweat

  20. intransitive verb
  21. 1a :  to escape with sudden forceful effort the attacker broke from the throngb :  to come into being by or as if by bursting forth day was breakingc :  to effect a penetration break through security linesd :  to emerge through the surface of the water The fish were breaking.e :  to start abruptly when the storm brokef :  to become known or published when the news brokeg :  to make a sudden dash break for coverh boxing :  to separate after an instance of holding an opponent at close quarters :  to separate after a clinch The ref told them to break.i :  to achieve initial success in usually a sudden or striking way her song broke nationallyj :  to begin a race the horse broke poorly

  22. 2a :  to come apart or split into pieces :  fragment, shatter the cup broke when it fellb :  to open spontaneously or by pressure from within the blister brokec of a wave :  to curl over and fall apart in surf or foam

  23. 3 :  to interrupt one's activity or occupation for a brief period break for lunch

  24. 4 :  to alter sharply in tone, pitch, or intensity a voice breaking with emotion

  25. 5 :  to become fair (see 1fair 4) :  clear when the weather breaks

  26. 6 billiards :  to make the opening shot of a game of pool

  27. 7 :  to end a relationship, connection, or agreement —usually used with with or from break with tradition broke with the leadership

  28. 8 :  to give way in disorderly retreat if the front line breaks

  29. 9a :  to swerve suddenlyb :  to curve from a straight path a pitch that breaks away from the batter a putt that breaks left

  30. 10a :  to fail in health, strength, vitality, resolve, or control may break under questioningb :  to become inoperative because of damage, wear, or strain the pump broke

  31. 11 of a horse :  to fail to keep a prescribed gait

  32. 12 :  to undergo a sudden significant decrease in price, value, or volume transportation stocks may break sharply

  33. 13 :  happen, develop for the team to succeed, everything has to break right

  34. 14 tennis :  to win against an opponent's serve

  35. 15a :  to divide into classes, categories, or typesb :  to fold, bend, lift, or come apart at a seam, groove, or joint The seam on her dress broke.c of cream :  to separate during churning into liquid and fat

break a leg

  1. —used to wish good luck especially to a performer

break bread

  1. :  to dine together

break camp

  1. :  to pack up gear and leave a camp or campsite

break cover

or less commonly

break covert

  1. :  to start from a hiding place, covert (see 2covert 1), or lair

break even

  1. :  to achieve a balance; especially :  to operate a business or enterprise without either loss or profit

break free

  1. :  to get away by overcoming restraints or constraints

break ground

  1. 1 :  to begin construction breaking ground on a new wing of the hospital

  2. 2 or break new ground :  to make or show discoveries :  pioneer

break into

  1. 1 :  to begin with or as if with a sudden throwing off of restraint broke into tears face breaking into a smile the horse breaks into a gallop

  2. 2 :  to make entry or entrance into broke into the house break into show business

  3. 3 :  interrupt break into a TV program with a news flash

break one's heart

  1. :  to crush emotionally with sorrow He broke my heart when he said he was leaving.

break one's wrists

  1. :  to turn the wrists as part of the swing of a club or bat

break ranks

or less commonly

break rank

  1. :  to differ in opinion or action from one's peers —often used with with broke ranks with the party's leadership

break the back of

  1. :  to subdue the main force of break the back of inflation

break the ice

  1. 1 :  to make a beginning

  2. 2 :  to get through the first difficulties in starting a conversation or discussion

break wind

  1. :  to expel gas from the intestine

Examples of break in a sentence

  1. She broke the cup when she dropped it on the floor.

  2. Break the chocolate bar into pieces so that everyone can have some.

  3. It is easiest to break a chain at its weakest link.

  4. A chain will break at its weakest link.

  5. The fall broke his arm.

  6. His arm broke in three places when he fell.

  7. A bruise forms when a blood vessel breaks under the skin.

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.

Origin and Etymology of break

Middle English breken, from Old English brecan; akin to Old High German brehhan to break, Latin frangere

First Known Use: before 12th century




Definition of break

  1. 1a :  an act or action of breakingb billiards :  the opening shot in a game of pool or billiards

  2. 2a :  a gap or opening caused or appearing as if caused by damage :  a condition produced by or as if by breaking :  gap a break in the pipe breaks in the ice a break in the clouds waiting for a break in the trafficb :  a gap in an otherwise continuous electric circuit

  3. 3 :  the action or act of entering, escaping, or emerging from something (such as darkness) often in a sudden or violent way :  the action or act of breaking in, breaking out, or breaking forth at break of day a jail break

  4. 4 :  a place or situation at which a break occurs: such asa :  the place at which a word is divided especially at the end of a line of print or writingb :  the location at which waves curl over and fall apart in surf or foam :  the point at which waves break (see 1break 2c) for surfingc :  separation of composed matter at an indicated point; also :  the separation between a preview of a website or a particular post on a website and the full content reading the rest of the article after the break

  5. 5 :  an interruption in continuity a break in the weather: such asa :  a notable change of subject matter, attitude, or treatment the break after the eighth line of a sonnetb (1) :  an abrupt, significant, or noteworthy change or interruption in a continuous process, trend, or surface dislikes breaks in his daily routine a break in her dancing career fields that extend for miles without a break (2) :  a respite from work, school, or duty take a short coffee break college kids on spring break (3) :  relief from annoyance —often used to express exasperation or irritation in phrases like give me a break (4) :  a planned interruption in a radio or television program a break for the commercialc baseball :  deviation of a pitched ball from a straight lined mining :  fault, dislocatione horseback riding :  failure of a horse to maintain the prescribed gaitf :  an abrupt change in musical or vocal pitch or quality a break in her voice as she said goodbyeg tennis :  the action or an instance of winning against an opponent's service :  the action or an instance of breaking (see 1break 13c) service a service breakh music :  a usually solo instrumental passage in jazz, folk, or popular music

  6. 6a :  dash, rush a base runner making a break for homeb sports :  fast break a break toward the basket

  7. 7 :  a sudden and abrupt decline of prices or values

  8. 8a :  the start of a raceb boxing :  the act of separating after an instance of holding an opponent at close quarters :  the act of separating after a clinch

  9. 9a :  a stroke of luck and especially of good luck got a lucky break can't seem to catch a break a series of bad breaksb :  a favorable or opportune situation :  chance waiting for a big break in show businessc :  favorable consideration or treatment a tax break a break on the price

  10. 10a :  a rupture in previously agreeable relations a break between the two countriesb :  an abrupt split or difference with something previously adhered to or followed a sharp break with tradition

  11. 11 :  breakdown 1c suffered a mental break

Examples of break in a sentence

  1. The tank is reinforced to prevent breaks and leaks.

  2. There was a break in the hedge.

  3. We waited for a break in the traffic.

  4. The fields extend for miles without a break.

  5. We chatted during a break in the game.

  6. All employees are entitled to two breaks during the workday.

  7. We've been working all day without a break.

Origin and Etymology of break

see 1break

First Known Use: 14th century

BREAK Defined for English Language Learners



verb \ˈbrāk\

Definition of break for English Language Learners

  • : to separate (something) into parts or pieces often in a sudden and forceful or violent way

  • : to cause (a bone) to separate into two or more pieces

  • : to open suddenly especially because of pressure from inside




Definition of break for English Language Learners

  • : a crack, hole, etc., that is caused by damage, injury, or pressure

  • : an opening or space in something : an opening that makes it possible for someone or something to enter or pass through something

  • : something that causes a change or interruption

BREAK Defined for Kids



verb \ˈbrāk\

Definition of break for Students






  1. 1 :  to separate into parts especially suddenly or forcibly break a stick break into groups

  2. 2 :  to cause (a bone) to separate into two or more pieces

  3. 3 :  to stop working or cause to stop working because of damage or wear I broke my watch.

  4. 4 :  to fail to keep broke the law break a promise

  5. 5 :  to force a way They broke out of jail.

  6. 6 :  to cut into and turn over break the soil

  7. 7 :  to go through :  penetrate break the skin … she broke through the surface of the water … — Kevin Henkes, Olive's Ocean

  8. 8 :  2tame break a wild horse

  9. 9 :  to do better than broke the school record

  10. 10 :  to interrupt or put an end to :  stop A shout broke the silence. Let's break for lunch.

  11. 11 :  to reduce the force of break a fall

  12. 12 :  to develop or burst out suddenly Day is breaking. They broke into laughter.

  13. 13 :  to make known broke the news

  14. 14 :  solve break a code

  15. 15 :  1change 4 break a ten-dollar bill

  16. 16 :  to run or flee suddenly break for cover

break down

  1. 1 :  to stop working properly The car broke down.

  2. 2 :  to separate or become separated into simpler substances :  decompose

  3. 3 :  to be overcome by emotion broke down in tears

  4. 4 :  to knock down break down a door

break out

  1. 1 :  to develop a skin rash

  2. 2 :  to start up suddenly A fight broke out.

break up

  1. 1 :  to separate into parts The meteor broke up in the earth's atmosphere.

  2. 2 :  to bring or come to an end The party broke up late.

  3. 3 :  to end a romantic relationship




Definition of break for Students

  1. 1 :  an act of breaking at break of day

  2. 2 :  something produced by breaking a bad break in the leg

  3. 3 :  a period of time when an activity stops Let's take a break.

  4. 4 :  an accidental event a lucky break

Medical Dictionary



verb \ˈbrāk\

Medical Definition of break


\ˈbrōk\play ;


\ˈbrō-kən\play ;


  1. 1

  2. transitive verb

  3. a:  to snap into pieces :  fracture break a boneb:  to fracture the bone of (a bodily part) the blow broke her armc:  to dislocate or dislocate and fracture a bone of (the neck or back)

  4. 2a:  to cause an open wound in :  rupture break the skinb:  to rupture the surface of and permit flowing out or effusing break an artery he broke several veins during his seizure

  5. 1

  6. intransitive verb

  7. :  to fail in health or strength—often used with down he broke down under the strain

  8. 2:  to suffer complete or marked loss of resistance, composure, resolution, morale, or command of a situation—often used with down the prisoner broke down under interrogation and told the whole story




Medical Definition of break

  1. 1a:  an act or action of breaking :  fractureb:  the act of opening a gap in an electrical circuit

  2. 2a:  a condition produced by breaking the break in her legb:  a gap in an otherwise continuous electric circuit

  3. 3:  the occurrence of a disease in a person or especially in a domestic animal supposed to be immune to or to have been completely isolated from exposure to that disease

Law Dictionary


verb \ˈbrāk\

Legal Definition of break


\ˈbrōk\ play


\ˈbrō-kən\ play


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  violate, transgress break the law b :  to invalidate (a will) by a court proceeding

  3. 2a :  to open (another's real property) by force or without privilege (as consent) for entry —often used in the phrase break and enter one who breaks and enters a dwelling-house of another — W. R. LaFave and A. W. Scott, Jr. b :  to escape by force from breaks prison or escapes or flees from justice — Colorado Revised Statutes

  4. 3 :  to cause (a strike) to fail and discontinue by means (as force) other than bargaining

  5. intransitive verb
  6. :  to escape with forceful effort —often used with out prisoners wounded while attempting to break out

break into

  1. :  to enter by force or without privilege an officer may break into a building — Arizona Revised Statutes

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