: 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
: to make a beginning
: to get through the first difficulties in starting a conversation or discussion
: to expel gas from the intestine
Did you know?
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.
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. Noun
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
While multiple news outlets reported on the news (following TMZ which broke the story), the couple never commented nor confirmed the reports…until today.—Chris Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 Sep. 2023 Just establish a rhythm, don’t break stride, and as those who fly kites must wait on the wind, stay patient.—Jonathan Rowe, Spin, 19 Sep. 2023 So what would happen if one of those panes were to break?—Stefanie Waldek, Travel + Leisure, 19 Sep. 2023 From Cleveland Heights running back Marquise Davis rushing for more than 300 yards in a comeback win against Hudson, to Findlay’s Ryan Montgomery breaking a school record set by Ben Roethlisberger with 491 passing yards and six TDs.—cleveland, 19 Sep. 2023 The only way to break the curse is to have the same person kiss her in her canine form.—Patrick Frater, Variety, 19 Sep. 2023 New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (nine years, $324 million) broke that mark just a few days later in a wild offseason.—Ryan Morik, Fox News, 8 Sep. 2023 Montana wildlife officers and law enforcement euthanized a bear that was involved in a fatal attack on a woman over the summer after the grizzly was caught trying to break into a home, officials said.—Ivan Pereira, ABC News, 7 Sep. 2023 According to the Atlanta Police Department, the training center opponents broke into the construction site off Constitution Road around 9:30 a.m. Thursday.—Riley Bunch, ajc, 7 Sep. 2023
Senators warn of dwindling time as hardline Republicans demand cuts
While the House has yet to come back into session from its weeks-long summer break, the Senate, which returned Tuesday, has a gloomy outlook on Congress' odds of avoiding a government shutdown.—USA TODAY, 8 Sep. 2023 The event comes after a long summer break for Prince William and Princess Kate, whose most recent vacation was the family get-together at Balmoral Castle with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.—Simon Perry, Peoplemag, 8 Sep. 2023 Take breaks: Take a break in a cool place when doing physical activity outside on a hot day.—Staff Reports, The Arizona Republic, 8 Sep. 2023 There will be a parade of flags on the field, folklorico dancers and traditional Hispanic tunes playing during game breaks.—Norma Cavazos, Dallas News, 7 Sep. 2023 During one preseason practice, Campbell opted to give her team a break from conditioning.—Shane Hoffmann | , oregonlive, 7 Sep. 2023 Defense attorney Stanley Woodward moved for a mistrial, saying that the jurors had taken an outdoor break near where protesters and media regularly gather outside the courthouse and came back with a verdict shortly after.—Lindsay Whitehurst, Chicago Tribune, 7 Sep. 2023 Take breaks when engaged in physical activity: Take a break in a cool place when doing activity outside on a hot day.—Laura Daniella Sepulveda, The Arizona Republic, 28 Aug. 2023 Jax State scored its first touchdown after a 12-play, 80-yard drive wrapped around the first/second quarter break.—Creg Stephenson | Cstephenson@al.com, al, 26 Aug. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'break.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
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"