verb \ˈbrāk\

Definition of break


play \ˈbrōk\


play \ˈbrō-kən\


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to separate into parts with suddenness or violence b :  fracture <break an arm> c :  rupture <break the skin> d :  to cut into and turn over the surface of <break the soil> e :  to render inoperable <broke his watch>

  3. 2 a :  violate, transgress <break the law> <break a promise> b :  to invalidate (a will) by action at law

  4. 3 a 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>

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

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

  7. 6 a :  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: as (1) past participle often broke :  to train (an animal) to adjust to the service or convenience of humans <a halter-broke horse> (2) :  inure, accustom d :  to exhaust in health, strength, or capacity <broken by his struggle for power>

  8. 7 a :  to stop or bring to an end suddenly :  halt <break a deadlock> 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 <fish breaking water> g :  to cause to discontinue a habit <tried to break him of smoking>

  9. 8 a :  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>

  10. 9 a :  to ruin financially <break the bank> b :  to reduce in rank <broken from sergeant to private>

  11. 10 a :  to split into smaller units, parts, or processes :  divide b (1) :  to give or get the equivalent of (a bill) in smaller denominations (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. 11 a :  to check the speed, force, or intensity of <the bushes will break his fall> <without breaking her stride> b :  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. 13 a :  exceed, surpass <break the record> b :  to score less than (a specified total) <a golfer trying to break 90> c :  to win against (an opponent's service) in tennis d :  to make (a run) in football by getting past defenders <broke a 20-yard run>

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

  16. 15 a :  to find an explanation or solution for :  solve <the detective broke the case> b :  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. 1 a :  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 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 :  to separate after a clinch in boxing 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>

  22. 2 a :  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

  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 :  clear <when the weather breaks>

  26. 6 :  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

  28. 8 :  to give way in disorderly retreat

  29. 9 a :  to swerve suddenly b :  to curve from a straight path <a pitch that breaks away from the batter> <a putt that breaks left>

  30. 10 a :  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>

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

  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 :  to win against an opponent's service in tennis

  35. 15 a :  to divide into classes, categories, or types —usually used with into <the rose is broken into several varieties> b :  to fold, bend, lift, or come apart at a seam, groove, or joint 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

less commonly

break covert

  1. :  to start from a covert 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

  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

break one's wrists

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

break ranks

less commonly

break rank

  1. :  to differ in opinion or action from one's peers —often used with with

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.

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

  2. 2 a :  a condition produced by or as if by breaking :  gap <a break in the clouds> b :  a gap in an otherwise continuous electric circuit

  3. 3 :  the action or act of breaking in, out, or forth <at break of day> <a jail break>

  4. 4 :  a place or situation at which a break occurs: as a :  the place at which a word is divided especially at the end of a line of print or writing b :  the point or location at which waves break for surfing

  5. 5 :  an interruption in continuity <a break in the weather>: as a :  a notable change of subject matter, attitude, or treatment b (1) :  an abrupt, significant, or noteworthy change or interruption in a continuous process, trend, or surface (2) :  a respite from work, school, or duty <coffee break> <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 :  deviation of a pitched baseball from a straight line d mining :  fault, dislocation e :  failure of a horse to maintain the prescribed gait f :  an abrupt change in musical or vocal pitch or quality g :  the action or an instance of breaking service in tennis h :  a usually solo instrumental passage in jazz, folk, or popular music

  6. 6 a :  dash, rush <a base runner making a break for home> b :  fast break

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

  8. 8 a :  the start of a race b :  the act of separating after a clinch in boxing

  9. 9 a :  a stroke of luck and especially of good luck <a bad break> <got the 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>

  10. 10 a :  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. 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.

14th Century

First Known Use of break

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 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)

  4. 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>

  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 leg>b:  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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a Mesopotamian temple tower

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