rent ˈrent How to pronounce rend (audio) also rended ˈren-dəd How to pronounce rend (audio) ; rending

transitive verb

: to remove from place by violence : wrest
: to split or tear apart or in pieces by violence
: to tear (the hair or clothing) as a sign of anger, grief, or despair
: to lacerate mentally or emotionally
: to pierce with sound
: to divide (something, such as a nation) into contesting factions

intransitive verb

: to perform an act of tearing or splitting
: to become torn or split
Choose the Right Synonym for rend

tear, rip, rend, split, cleave, rive mean to separate forcibly.

tear implies pulling apart by force and leaving jagged edges.

tear up the letter

rip implies a pulling apart in one rapid uninterrupted motion often along a line or joint.

ripped the shirt on a nail

rend implies very violent or ruthless severing or sundering.

an angry mob rent the prisoner's clothes

split implies a cutting or breaking apart in a continuous, straight, and usually lengthwise direction or in the direction of grain or layers.

split logs for firewood

cleave implies very forceful splitting or cutting with a blow.

a bolt of lightning cleaved the giant oak

rive occurs most often in figurative use.

a political party riven by conflict

Example Sentences

They rent the cloth to shreds. mourners rending their clothes in grief
Recent Examples on the Web Jakes was, by his own admission, not a great stylist and his plots were crafted for maximum heart-rending drama rather than logical soundness. John Warner, Chicago Tribune, 25 Mar. 2023 The overwhelming majority live outside of city centers and the heart-rending decisions NGOs make every day of which lives to save in an environment of evaporating resources leaves that majority too often unattended. Thomas Sadoski, CNN, 2 Mar. 2023 Every year, the Oscar nomination announcements tend to inspire shrieks of joy, yelps of surprise, and the loud gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 2 Mar. 2023 Could the dark energy that’s accelerating the expansion of the universe eventually rend apart spacetime? Steven Strogatz, Quanta Magazine, 22 Feb. 2023 Metal hooks linked to chains obey Pinhead's commands and rend the flesh from his victims! Steven Thrash,, 14 Nov. 2022 But in Amsterdam, Gomperts didn’t rend her clothes. Mattie Kahn, Glamour, 25 Oct. 2022 During highly sensationalized and publicized court cases, terms to describe abusive behavior often rend online. NBC News, 23 Apr. 2022 Pundits and politicians who rend their garments over the evils of gerrymandering never propose to give back their policy winnings from this period. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, 11 Feb. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rend.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Old English rendan; akin to Old Frisian renda to tear and perhaps to Sanskrit randhra hole

First Known Use

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

Time Traveler
The first known use of rend was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near rend

Cite this Entry

“Rend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


rent ˈrent How to pronounce rend (audio) also rended; rending
: to remove from place by force : wrest
: to split or tear apart or in pieces by force
: to tear (the hair or clothing) as a sign of anger, grief, or despair
: to affect as if splitting or tearing
silence rent by a scream

More from Merriam-Webster on rend

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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