\ˈbrāk \
broke\ˈbrōk \; broken\ˈbrō-​kən \; breaking

Definition of break 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to separate into parts with suddenness or violence broke a plate Break the chocolate bar in half.

b(1) : to cause (a bone) to separate into two or more pieces : fracture broke her femur

(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 skin

d : to cut into and turn over the surface of break the soil

e : to render inoperable broke his watch

2a : violate, transgress break the law break a promise breaking conventions

b law : to invalidate (a will) by action under the provisions of the law

3a archaic : to force entry into

b : to burst and force a way through break the sound barrier break a racial barrier

c : to escape by force from break jail

d : to make or effect by cutting, forcing, or pressing through break a trail through the woods

4 : to disrupt the order or compactness of break formation

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

6a : to defeat utterly and end as an effective force : destroy used starvation to break the enemy

b : to crush the spirit of brutal methods broke the prisoner

c : 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, accustom

d : to exhaust in health, strength, or capacity broken by his struggle for power

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 organization

b : interrupt, suspend break the silence with a cry

c : to open and bring about suspension of operation break an electric circuit

d : to destroy unity or completeness of break a dining room set by buying a chair

e : to change the appearance of uniformity of a dormer breaks the level roof

f : to split the surface of could see fish breaking water

g : to cause to discontinue a habit tried to break him of smoking

8a : to make known : tell break the bad news gently

b : to bring to attention or prominence initially radio stations breaking new musicians break a news story

9a : to ruin financially break the bank

b : to reduce in rank broken from sergeant to private

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 line

b(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

11a : to check or slow the speed, force, or intensity of The bushes broke his fall. without breaking her stride

b : to cause failure and discontinuance of (a strike) by measures outside bargaining processes

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

13a : exceed, surpass break the record

b golf : to score less than (a specified total) trying to break 90

c tennis : to win against (an opponent's service)

d football : to make (a run) by getting past defenders broke a 20-yard run

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

15a : to find an explanation or solution for : solve the detective broke the case

b : to discover the essentials of (a code or cipher system)

16 : to demonstrate the falsity of break an alibi

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

18 : to produce visibly barely breaks a sweat

intransitive verb

1a : to escape with sudden forceful effort the attacker broke from the throng

b : to come into being by or as if by bursting forth day was breaking

c : to effect a penetration break through security lines

d : to emerge through the surface of the water The fish were breaking.

e : to start abruptly when the storm broke

f : to become known or published when the news broke

g : to make a sudden dash break for cover

h 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 nationally

j : to begin a race the horse broke poorly

2a : to come apart or split into pieces : fragment, shatter the cup broke when it fell

b : to open spontaneously or by pressure from within the blister broke

c of a wave : to curl over and fall apart in surf or foam

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

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

5 : to become fair (see fair entry 1 sense 3) : clear when the weather breaks

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

7 : to end a relationship, connection, or agreement usually used with with or from break with traditionbroke with the leadership

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

9a : to swerve suddenly

b : to curve from a straight path a pitch that breaks away from the batter a putt that breaks left

10a : to fail in health, strength, vitality, resolve, or control may break under questioning

b : to become inoperative because of damage, wear, or strain the pump broke

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

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

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

14 tennis : to win against an opponent's serve

15a : to divide into classes, categories, or types

b : 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

used to wish good luck especially to a performer

break bread

: to dine together

break camp

: to pack up gear and leave a camp or campsite

break cover or less commonly break covert

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

break even

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

break free

: to get away by overcoming restraints or constraints

break ground

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

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

break into

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

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

break one's heart

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

break one's wrists

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

break ranks or less commonly break rank

: 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

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

break the ice

1 : to make a beginning

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

break wind

: to expel gas from the intestine



Definition of break (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : an act or action of breaking

b billiards : the opening shot in a game of pool or billiards

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 traffic

b : a gap in an otherwise continuous electric circuit

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 : a place or situation at which a break occurs: such as

a : the place at which a word is divided especially at the end of a line of print or writing

b : the location at which waves curl over and fall apart in surf or foam : the point at which waves break (see break entry 1 sense 2c) for surfing

c : 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 : an interruption in continuity a break in the weather : such as

a : a notable change of subject matter, attitude, or treatment the break after the eighth line of a sonnet

b(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 commercial

c baseball : deviation of a pitched ball from a straight line

d mining : fault, dislocation

e horseback riding : failure of a horse to maintain the prescribed gait

f(1) : an abrupt change in musical or vocal pitch or quality especially : the point between two distinctive musical registers of a voice or a wind instrument

(2) : a sudden change in vocal pitch, intensity, or tone speaking passionately, with a break in her voice

(3) : a quick shift from one rhythmic track to another in the same tempo and key on a different turntable

g tennis : the action or an instance of winning against an opponent's service : the action or an instance of breaking (see break entry 1 sense 13c) service a service break

h music : a usually solo instrumental passage in jazz, folk, or popular music

6a : dash, rush a base runner making a break for home

b sports : fast break a break toward the basket

7 : a sudden and abrupt decline of prices or values

8a : the start of a race

b boxing : the act of separating after an instance of holding an opponent at close quarters : the act of separating after a clinch

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 breaks

b : a favorable or opportune situation : chance waiting for a big break in show business

c : favorable consideration or treatment a tax break a break on the price

10a : a rupture in previously agreeable relations a break between the two countries

b : an abrupt split or difference with something previously adhered to or followed a sharp break with tradition

11 : breakdown sense 1c suffered a mental break

Keep scrolling for more

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 break in a Sentence


She broke the cup when she dropped it on the floor. Break the chocolate bar into pieces so that everyone can have some. It is easiest to break a chain at its weakest link. A chain will break at its weakest link. The fall broke his arm. His arm broke in three places when he fell. A bruise forms when a blood vessel breaks under the skin.


The tank is reinforced to prevent breaks and leaks. There was a break in the hedge. We waited for a break in the traffic. The fields extend for miles without a break. We chatted during a break in the game. All employees are entitled to two breaks during the workday. We've been working all day without a break.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Former U.S. negotiators on North Korea say now is the time to break the cycle. David Tweed,, "Trump Needs a New China Approach, Ex-North Korea Negotiators Say," 30 Aug. 2017 At 21 years old Roosa was sentenced to life in prison after breaking into a Daytona Beach women's home, kidnapping, robbing and eventually killing her. Danielle Kwateng-clark,, "5 Infamous Black Women Who Committed Unforgettable Crimes," 30 Aug. 2017 That visit may have been a bit strained; according to David Cox at The Guardian, Turing was officially supposed to share British breakthroughs in breaking the Enigma code with the Americans. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "New Letters Show Alan Turing Wasn’t a Fan of the U.S.A.," 30 Aug. 2017 Three months ago, six countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar, a fellow member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Kathy Gilsinan, The Atlantic, "Emirati Ambassador: Qatar Is a Destructive Force in the Region," 28 Aug. 2017 Specific types of fractures may indicate abuse, such as midshaft fractures in the ulna, a forearm bone that can break when an older adult holds his arm in front of his face to protect himself. Barbara Sadick, Kaiser Health News, "Elder Abuse: ERs Learn How To Protect A Vulnerable Population," 28 Aug. 2017 The market in 2016 did, according to the World Bank, more than $ 42 trillion in trades and a 3 percent tax won’t break the bank., "Column: Time for a new ‘New Deal’," 24 Aug. 2017 An iceberg the size of Long Island has broken off of an Antarctic ice shelf. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "An Iceberg the Size of Long Island Just Broke Off From Antarctica," 12 July 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Moore got his big break taking the piss out of pop culture on The Simpsons and Futurama, and the Wreck-It Ralph movies are among the few big-screen films to manage the same joke-a-minute, satirical snap of those TV shows. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Ralph Breaks the Internet is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but for the internet," 21 Nov. 2018 When Ralph tries to help her out by building a new Sugar Rush course, things inevitably go wrong, and the steering wheel for her arcade cabinet breaks. Bryan Bishop, The Verge, "Ralph Breaks the Internet is The Lego Movie of Disney films," 14 Nov. 2018 Further Reading Ars on your lunch break: Finding Pharaoh and spotting looters from orbit We open today’s installment talking about the presentation Sarah made while accepting the TED prize—which came with a million-dollar check to advance her work. Rob Reid, Ars Technica, "Ars on your lunch break: Transforming citizens into scientists with satellites," 2 Nov. 2018 The decision to offer the new CPUs to OEMs exclusively is a break from prior chip launches, when AMD sold directly to consumers. Gordon Mah Ung, PCWorld, "AMD's Ryzen 5 2500X and Ryzen 3 2300X target budget gamers, but they're not DIY," 10 Sep. 2018 On the mound Phillies RHP Zach Eflin (7-2, 3.15 ERA, 1.078 WHIP) vs. Marlins RHP Jose Ureña (2-9, 4.13 ERA, 1.194 WHIP): Ureña will finish his steady first half Sunday against the Phillies, the Marlins’ final game before the four-day All-Star break. Matthew Defranks,, "Preview: Phillies at Marlins, Sunday, 1:10 p.m.," 14 July 2018 Hard knocks The injury was yet another tough break for Robinson. Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Pistons Glenn Robinson III coming for starting forward spot," 14 July 2018 Grab-and-go items will also be available, such as a full sushi menu for people with limited time for their lunch breaks. Jessica Suriano, azcentral, "The Larry restaurant, catering business will bring eclectic menu to downtown Phoenix," 13 July 2018 The Walker’s Point restaurant Meraki, which is reopening after its summer break, is changing over to new dinner and bar menus and enticing customers to try new dinner dishes with a half-price night on Friday. Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Reopening after break, Meraki marks new menu with a half-price night," 12 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'break.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of break


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for break


Middle English breken, going back to Old English brecan, going back to Germanic *brekan- (whence also Old Saxon brekan "to violently separate, shatter," Old High German brehhan, Gothic brikan), going back to Indo-European *bhreg- "violently separate," whence also, with varying ablaut grades, Latin frangere (perfect frēgī) "to break, shatter" and perhaps Old Irish braigid (perfect ro-bebraig) "(s/he) farts, breaks wind"


Middle English brek, breke, derivative of breken "to break entry 1"

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about break

Statistics for break

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for break

The first known use of break was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for break



English Language Learners Definition of break

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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



English Language Learners Definition of break (Entry 2 of 2)

: 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


\ˈbrāk \
broke\ˈbrōk \; broken\ˈbrō-​kən \; breaking

Kids Definition of break

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

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

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

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

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

6 : to cut into and turn over break the soil

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

8 : tame entry 2 break a wild horse

9 : to do better than broke the school record

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

11 : to reduce the force of break a fall

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

13 : to make known broke the news

14 : solve break a code

15 : change entry 1 sense 4 break a ten-dollar bill

16 : to run or flee suddenly break for cover

break down

1 : to stop working properly The car broke down.

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

3 : to be overcome by emotion broke down in tears

4 : to knock down break down a door

break out

1 : to develop a skin rash

2 : to start up suddenly A fight broke out.

break up

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

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

3 : to end a romantic relationship



Kids Definition of break (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an act of breaking at break of day

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

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

4 : an accidental event a lucky break


\ˈbrāk \
broke\ˈbrōk \; broken\ˈbrō-​kən \; breaking

Medical Definition of break 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to snap into pieces : fracture break a bone

b : to fracture the bone of (a bodily part) the blow broke her arm

c : to dislocate or dislocate and fracture a bone of (the neck or back)

2a : to cause an open wound in : rupture break the skin

b : to rupture the surface of and permit flowing out or effusing break an artery he broke several veins during his seizure

intransitive verb

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

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 (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : an act or action of breaking : fracture

b : the act of opening a gap in an electrical circuit

2a : a condition produced by breaking the break in her leg

b : a gap in an otherwise continuous electric circuit

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

Keep scrolling for more


\ˈbrāk \
broke\ˈbrōk \; broken\ˈbrō-​kən \; breaking\ˈbrā-​kiŋ \

Legal Definition of break 

transitive verb

1a : violate, transgress break the law

b : to invalidate (a will) by a court proceeding

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 justiceColorado Revised Statutes

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

intransitive verb

: to escape with forceful effort often used with out prisoners wounded while attempting to break out

break in*to

: to enter by force or without privilege an officer may break into a buildingArizona Revised Statutes

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on break

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with break

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for break

Spanish Central: Translation of break

Nglish: Translation of break for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on break

What made you want to look up break? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!