tear

1 of 4

verb (1)

tore ˈtȯr How to pronounce tear (audio) ; torn ˈtȯrn How to pronounce tear (audio) ; tearing

transitive verb

1
a
: to separate parts of or pull apart by force : rend
b
: to wound by or as if by pulling apart by force : lacerate
tear the skin
2
: to divide or disrupt by the pull of contrary forces
a mind torn with doubts
3
a
: to remove by force : wrench
often used with off
tear a cover off a box
b
: to remove as if by wrenching
tear your thoughts away from the scene
4
: to make (a hole or opening) by or as if by pulling apart by force
tear a hole in the wall

intransitive verb

1
: to separate on being pulled : rend
this cloth tears easily
2
a
: to move or act with violence, haste, or force
went tearing down the street
b
: to smash or penetrate something with violent force
the bullet tore through his leg
tearable adjective
tearer noun

tear

2 of 4

noun (1)

1
a
: damage from being torn (see tear entry 1)
especially : a hole or flaw made by tearing
mending a tear in her skirt
b
: the act of tearing something
2
a
: a hurried and violent rush : a tearing pace
the train went by at a tear
b
: spree
got paid and went on a tear
c
: a run of unusual success
the team was on a tear

tear

3 of 4

noun (2)

1
a
: a drop of clear saline fluid secreted by the lacrimal gland and diffused between the eye and eyelids to moisten the parts and facilitate their motion
b
tears plural : a secretion of profuse tears that overflow the eyelids and dampen the face
2
tears plural : an act of weeping or grieving
broke into tears
3
: a transparent drop of fluid or hardened fluid matter (such as resin)
tearless adjective

tear

4 of 4

verb (2)

teared; tearing; tears

intransitive verb

: to fill with tears (see tear entry 3) : shed tears
eyes tearing in the November windSaul Bellow
Phrases
tear at
: to cause anguish to : distress
her grief tore at his heart
tear into
: to attack without restraint or caution
tear it
: to cause frustration, defeat, or an end to plans or hopes
that tears it
tear one's hair
: to pull one's hair as an expression of grief, rage, frustration, desperation, or anxiety
also : to feel or display such an emotion
Choose the Right Synonym for tear

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

Examples of tear in a Sentence

Noun (2) And thus he would die—out in the cold world, with no shelter over his homeless head.  … And thus SHE would see him when she looked out upon the glad morning, and oh! would she drop one little tear upon his poor, lifeless form, would she heave one little sigh to see a bright young life so rudely blighted, so untimely cut down? Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, 1876
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Some prosecutors appear torn over whether changes are needed. Tim Craig, Washington Post, 19 Feb. 2024 Vallejo, who is also a novelist and whose book includes passages of memoir and reflection, is torn about the gifts and costs of parchment. Claudia Roth Pierpont, The New Yorker, 19 Feb. 2024 Grace tore his labrum in the state tournament last year, but recovered from his injury to return this season. Nathan Canilao, The Mercury News, 18 Feb. 2024 Its arched roof and pillars of grey stone had stood for some 600 years before it was torn to the ground. Rhea Mogul, CNN, 15 Feb. 2024 Jimmy and Chelsea Jimmy and Chelsea were both in dramatic love triangles in the pods — Jimmy was torn between Chelsea and single mom Jessica, while Chelsea couldn't decide between Jimmy and Trevor. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, 14 Feb. 2024 The Turkish cotton material is extra soft against the skin, resistant to tearing, and absorbent. Moriah Mason, Southern Living, 12 Feb. 2024 The first tornado ever recorded in Wisconsin in the usually frigid month of February tore through mostly rural areas on a day that broke records for warmth, setting up the perfect scenario for the type of severe weather normally seen in the late spring and summer. Todd Richmond and Scott Bauer The Associated Press, arkansasonline.com, 10 Feb. 2024 The 48,000-square-foot triangular lot at South Alameda and East 14th streets, where the fire tore through, had been leased by an absentee landlord, who subleased parcels of the property to others and failed to pay Caltrans rent for more than a year, according to the state. Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times, 9 Feb. 2024
Noun
One night his tears of anguish turn the pile into a loving sock monster named Crust who becomes his protector and friend. Caroline Brew, Variety, 20 Feb. 2024 Many authors put hundreds of hours and blood, sweat and tears into writing their books. Meimei Fox, Forbes, 19 Feb. 2024 Surgery in 1978 for a double tear in the rotator cuff of his left shoulder would mark the end of his playing days. Alex Williams, New York Times, 16 Feb. 2024 The tears started before the rookie coach said his first word. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 14 Feb. 2024 Fueled by speculation about a potential AI boom, semiconductor manufacturer Arm Holdings is the hottest stock on Wall Street right now—and on a historic tear. Dylan Sloan, Fortune, 13 Feb. 2024 Grade 2 is a complete tear of one and a partial tear of the other. Jason Anderson, Sacramento Bee, 13 Feb. 2024 Upon taking a bite of the chicken wing, a giddy Jeong starts to cry tears of joy. Sabrina Weiss, Peoplemag, 6 Feb. 2024 Camera shots of the audience showed Beyoncé, Olivia Rodrigo, and other indomitable cultural figures appearing on the verge of tears. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 5 Feb. 2024 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Verb (1) and Noun (1)

Middle English teren, from Old English teran; akin to Old High German zeran to destroy, Greek derein to skin, Sanskrit dṛṇāti he bursts, tears

Noun (2) and Verb (2)

Middle English, from Old English tæhher, tēar; akin to Old High German zahar tear, Greek dakry

First Known Use

Verb (1)

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

Noun (1)

1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

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

Verb (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near tear

Cite this Entry

“Tear.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tear. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

tear

1 of 4 noun
1
: a drop of the salty liquid that keeps the eye and the inner eyelids moist
2
plural : an act of crying or grieving
burst into tears
teary
ˈti(ə)r-ē
adjective

tear

2 of 4 verb
: to fill with tears : shed tears
eyes tearing in the wind

tear

3 of 4 verb
ˈta(ə)r How to pronounce tear (audio)
ˈte(ə)r
tore ˈtō(ə)r How to pronounce tear (audio)
ˈtȯ(ə)r
; torn ˈtō(ə)rn How to pronounce tear (audio)
ˈtȯ(ə)rn
; tearing
1
a
: to separate or pull apart by force
tore a page from the pad
b
: to injure by or as if by tearing : lacerate
tear the skin
2
: to divide or throw into disorder by the pull of contrary forces
a mind torn by doubts
3
: to remove by force
children torn from their parents
4
: to cause by force or violent means
tore a hole in the wall
5
: to move or act with violence, haste, or force
tearing down the street
tearer noun

tear

4 of 4 noun
ˈta(ə)r How to pronounce tear (audio)
ˈte(ə)r
1
: the act of tearing
2
: damage from being torn
especially : a torn place
mending a tear in my sleeve
Etymology

Noun

Old English tēar "a drop of liquid from the eye"

Verb

Old English teran "to pull apart"

Medical Definition

tear

1 of 4 noun
1
a
: a drop of clear saline fluid secreted by the lacrimal gland and diffused between the eye and eyelids to moisten the parts and facilitate their motion
b
tears plural : a secretion of profuse tears that overflow the eyelids and dampen the face
2
: a transparent drop of fluid or hardened fluid matter (as resin)

tear

2 of 4 intransitive verb
: to fill with tears : shed tears
my eyes sting and tear

tear

3 of 4 transitive verb
: to wound by or as if by pulling apart by force
tear the skin

tear

4 of 4 noun
: a wound made by tearing a bodily part
a muscle tear

More from Merriam-Webster on tear

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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