American English

Definition of break verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they break
    he / she / it breaks
    past simple broke
    past participle broken
    -ing form breaking
    jump to other results
    in pieces
  1. 1[intransitive, transitive] to be damaged and separated into two or more parts as a result of force; to damage something in this way All the windows broke with the force of the blast. The bag broke from the weight of the bottles inside it. break in/into something She dropped the plate and it broke into pieces. break something to break a cup/window She fell off a ladder and broke her arm. break something in/into something He broke the pencil in two. Topic CollocationsInjuriesbeing injured have a fall/an injury receive/suffer/sustain a serious injury/a hairline fracture/a gunshot wound/a concussion/whiplash injuries hurt/injure your ankle/back/leg damage the brain/an ankle ligament/your liver/the optic nerve/the skin pull/strain/tear a hamstring/ligament/muscle/tendon sprain/twist your ankle/wrist break a bone/your collarbone/your leg/three ribs fracture/crack your skull break/chip/knock out/lose a tooth burst/perforate your eardrum dislocate your finger/hip/jaw/shoulder/elbow bruise/cut/graze your arm/knee/shoulder burn/scald yourself/your tongue bang/bump/hit your elbow/head/knee (on/against something)treating injuries treat somebody for burns/a head injury/a stab wound examine/clean/dress/bandage/treat a bullet wound repair a damaged/torn ligament/tendon/cartilage amputate/cut off an arm/a finger/a foot/a leg/a limb put on (formal) apply/take off a Band-Aid™/a sterile dressing/a bandage need/require/put in/get/take out stitches put on/rub on (formal) apply cream/ointment/lotion have/receive/undergo physical therapy
  2. stop working
  3. 2[intransitive, transitive] to stop working as a result of being damaged; to damage something and stop it from working My watch broke last week. break something I think I broke the washing machine.
  4. skin
  5. 3[transitive] break something to cut the surface of the skin and make it bleed The dog bit me, but didn't break the skin.
  6. law/promise
  7. 4[transitive] break something to do something that is against the law; to not keep a promise, etc. to break the law/rules/conditions to break an agreement/a contract/a promise/your word to break an appointment (= not to come to it) He was breaking the speed limit (= traveling faster than the law allows).
  8. a record
  9. 5[transitive] break a record to do something better, faster, etc. than anyone has ever done it before She had broken the world 100 meters record. The movie broke all box-office records.
  10. stop for short time
  11. 6[intransitive] to stop doing something for a while, especially when it is time to eat or have a drink break (for something) Let's break for lunch.
  12. end something
  13. 7[transitive] break something to interrupt something so that it ends suddenly She broke the silence by coughing. A tree broke his fall (= stopped him as he was falling). The phone rang and broke my train of thought. Someone laughed suddenly and the spell was broken.
  14. 8[transitive] break something to make something end by using force or strong action an attempt to break the year-long siege Management has not succeeded in breaking the strike.
  15. 9[transitive] break something to end a connection with something or a relationship with someone He broke all ties with his parents.
  16. 10[transitive] break somebody of something to cause someone to stop doing something that they have done for a long time, especially something that is harmful to them His friends tried to help break him of his drug habit, but eventually he had to go into rehab.
  17. destroy, be destroyed
  18. 11[transitive, intransitive] break (somebody/something) to destroy something or make someone or something weaker; to become weak or be destroyed to break someone's morale/resistance/resolve/spirit The government was determined to break the power of the trade unions. The scandal broke him (= ruined his reputation and destroyed his confidence). She broke under questioning (= was no longer able to bear it) and confessed to everything.
  19. make someone feel bad
  20. 12[transitive] break somebody to make someone feel so sad, lonely, etc. that they cannot live a normal life The death of his wife broke him completely.
  21. escape
  22. 13[intransitive] break free (from someone or something) (of a person or an object) to get away from or out of a position in which they are stuck or trapped He finally managed to break free from his attacker.
  23. of day/dawn/storm
  24. 14[intransitive] when the day or dawn or a storm breaks, it begins Dawn was breaking when they finally left. see also daybreak
  25. of waves
  26. 15[intransitive] when waves break, they fall and are dissolved into foam, usually near land the sound of waves breaking on the beach The ocean was breaking over the wrecked ship.
  27. of weather
  28. 16[intransitive] to change suddenly, usually after a period when it has been fine
  29. show opening
  30. 17[intransitive] to show an opening The clouds broke and the sun came out.
  31. of news
  32. 18[intransitive] if a piece of news breaks, it becomes known There was a public outcry when the scandal broke. breaking news (= news that is arriving about events that have just happened)
  33. 19[transitive] break it/the news to someone to be the first to tell someone some bad news Who's going to break it to her? I'm sorry to be the one to break the news to you.
  34. of voice
  35. 20[intransitive] if someone's voice breaks, it changes its tone because of emotion Her voice broke as she told us the dreadful news.
  36. 21[intransitive] when a boy's voice breaks, it becomes permanently deeper at about the age of 13 or 14
  37. something secret
  38. 22[transitive] break a code/cipher to find the meaning of something secret It took experts weeks to break the code and read the message.
  39. money
  40. 23[transitive] break something to change a banknote for coins Can you break a twenty-dollar bill?
  41. Vocabulary Buildingwords that mean “break” burstThe balloon hit a tree and burst. crackThe ice started to crack. crumbleCrumble the cheese into a bowl. cutNow cut the wire in two. fractureHe fell and fractured his hip. shatterThe glass hit the floor and shattered. smashVandals had smashed the car's windshield. snapI snapped the pencil in half. splitThe cushion split open and sent feathers everywhere. tearShe tore the letter into pieces. All these verbs, except cut, can be used with or without an object. Phrasal Verbsbreak away (from somebody/something)break downbreak somethingdownbreak for somethingbreak inbreak somebody/something inbreak in (on something)break into somethingbreak offbreak somethingoffbreak outbreak out (of something)break out in somethingbreak throughbreak throughbreak through somethingbreak upbreak somebodyupbreak somethingupbreak up (with somebody)break with something
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: break