\ ˈbrāk-ˌin How to pronounce break-in (audio) \

Definition of break-in

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the act or action of breaking in a rash of break-ins at the new apartment house
2 : a performance or a series of performances serving as a trial run
3 : an initial period of operation during which working parts begin to function efficiently

break in

broke in; broken in; breaking in; breaks in

Definition of break in (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to enter something (such as a building or computer system) without consent or by force
2a : intrude break in upon his privacy
b : to interrupt a conversation
3 : to start in an activity or enterprise breaking in as a cub reporter

transitive verb

1 : to accustom to a certain activity or occurrence break in the new clerk
2 : to overcome the stiffness or newness of break in a pair of shoes

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for break-in

Synonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of break-in in a Sentence

Verb the burglars broke in by smashing a window he rudely broke in to drop the names of several celebrities that he had met
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb On Monday, investigators received word that the sample had a match from the Texas Department of Public Safety, a break in the nearly year-long case that led to the arrest Friday night of 20-year-old Marcus Kenneth Cox-Davis. Dylan Mcguinness, Houston Chronicle, "DNA match, new state law credited for arrest of suspected gas station killer," 1 Feb. 2020 The break in the case began in 2018 when the Yolo County District Attorney's Office formed a cold case task force, said Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig. Melissa Alonso And Gregory Lemos, CNN, "Man charged with killing five of his infant children over 30 years," 29 Jan. 2020 Recently, the family told their local Stockton newspaper that the FBI alerted them to a big break in the case. Matthias Gafni,, "Kristin Smart break: Investigators seized trucks belonging to family of person of interest," 29 Jan. 2020 Although the baby was found in 2007, Lopez said a break in the case didn't happen until last fall. Anchorage Daily News, "California fisherman’s find leads investigators to alleged serial baby killer," 28 Jan. 2020 A few days later, on January 26, 2006, came the first big break in the case. NBC News, "Family refuses to give up search for Jennifer Kesse who vanished 14 years ago from Orlando, Florida home," 24 Jan. 2020 Following a landmark break in the cold case of the Golden State Killer in 2018, police have since used family tree forensics to identify suspects in dozens more cases. Wired Staff, Wired, "WIRED's 7 Big Science Stories That Shaped 2019," 23 Dec. 2019 Wildlife officers got a break in the case in September 2018 when an Evergeen resident noticed someone on his property with what appeared to be a dead, headless elk, the release said. Sam Tabachnik, The Denver Post, "Texas man pleads guilty to illegally hunting trophy elk in Conifer, Evergeen backyards," 20 Dec. 2019 Though the murder of the 27-year-old roommates remains unsolved, their families are still hopeful for a break in the case. Nicole Soto, azcentral, "Family continues to search for answers in unsolved triple-murder case, 9 years later," 1 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'break-in.' 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-in


1856, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1535, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about break-in

Time Traveler for break-in

Time Traveler

The first known use of break-in was circa 1535

See more words from the same year

Statistics for break-in

Cite this Entry

“Break-in.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for break-in


How to pronounce break in (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of break-in

: the act or crime of illegally entering a house, building, etc., especially by using force


\ ˈbrāk-ˌin \

Legal Definition of break-in

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the act or action of breaking in

Legal Definition of break in (Entry 2 of 2)

: to enter something (as a building or computer system) without privilege (as consent) or by force

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on break-in

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with break-in

Spanish Central: Translation of break-in

Nglish: Translation of break-in for Spanish Speakers

Comments on break-in

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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!