Definition of break verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



, broken

in pieces

1 [intransitive, transitive] to be damaged and separated into two or more parts as a result of force; to damage something in this wayAll the windows broke with the force of the blast.The bag broke from the weight of the bottles inside it. break in/into somethingShe dropped the plate and it broke into pieces. break somethingto break a cup/windowShe fell off a ladder and broke her arm. break something in/into somethingHe broke the pencil in two.

stop working

2 [intransitive, transitive] to stop working as a result of being damaged; to damage something and stop it from workingMy watch broke last week. break somethingI think I broke the washing machine.


3 [transitive] break something to cut the surface of the skin and make it bleedThe dog bit me, but didn't break the skin.


4 [transitive] break something to do something that is against the law; to not keep a promise, break the law/rules/conditionsto break an agreement/a contract/a promise/your wordto break an appointment (= not to come to it)He was breaking the speed limit (= traveling faster than the law allows).

a record

5 [transitive] break a record to do something better, faster, etc. than anyone has ever done it beforeShe had broken the world 100 meters record.The movie broke all box-office records.

stop for short time

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.

end something

7 [transitive] break something to interrupt something so that it ends suddenlyShe 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.8 [transitive] break something to make something end by using force or strong actionan attempt to break the year-long siegeManagement has not succeeded in breaking the strike.9 [transitive] break something to end a connection with something or a relationship with someoneHe broke all ties with his parents.10 [transitive] break someone of something to cause someone to stop doing something that they have done for a long time, especially something that is harmful to themHis friends tried to help break him of his drug habit, but eventually he had to go into rehab.

destroy, be destroyed

11 [transitive, intransitive] break (someone/something) to destroy something or make someone or something weaker; to become weak or be destroyedto break someone's morale/resistance/resolve/spiritThe 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.

make someone feel bad

12 [transitive] break someone to make someone feel so sad, lonely, etc. that they cannot live a normal lifeThe death of his wife broke him completely.


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 trappedHe finally managed to break free from his attacker.

of day/dawn/storm

14 [intransitive] when the day or dawn or a storm breaks, it beginsDawn was breaking when they finally left. see also daybreak

of waves

15 [intransitive] when waves break, they fall and are dissolved into foam, usually near landthe sound of waves breaking on the beachThe ocean was breaking over the wrecked ship.

of weather

16 [intransitive] to change suddenly, usually after a period when it has been fine

show opening

17 [intransitive] to show an openingThe clouds broke and the sun came out.

of news

18 [intransitive] if a piece of news breaks, it becomes knownThere was a public outcry when the scandal broke.breaking news (= news that is arriving about events that have just happened)19 [transitive] break it/the news to someone to be the first to tell someone some bad newsWho's going to break it to her?I'm sorry to be the one to break the news to you.

of voice

20 [intransitive] if someone's voice breaks, it changes its tone because of emotionHer voice broke as she told us the dreadful news.21 [intransitive] when a boy's voice breaks, it becomes permanently deeper at about the age of 13 or 14

something secret

22 [transitive] break a code/cipher to find the meaning of something secretIt took experts weeks to break the code and read the message.


23 [transitive] break something to change a banknote for coinsCan you break a twenty-dollar bill?
Idioms containing break are at the entries for the nouns and adjectives in the idioms. For example, break someone's heart is at heart. 

break away (from someone/something)

1 to escape suddenly from someone who is holding you or keeping you prisonerThe prisoner broke away from his guards.2 to leave a political party, state, etc., especially to form a new oneThe people of the province wanted to break away and form a new state. related noun breakaway3 to move away from a crowd or group, especially in a raceShe broke away from the pack and opened up a two-second lead.break awaybreak away from

break down

1 (of a machine or vehicle) to stop working because of a faultThe telephone system has broken down.We (= the car) broke down on the freeway. related noun breakdown2 to failNegotiations between the two sides have broken down. related noun breakdown3 to become very badHer health broke down under the pressure of work. see also nervous breakdown4 to lose control of your feelings and start cryingHe broke down and wept when he heard the news.5 to divide into parts to be analyzedExpenditure on the project breaks down as follows: salaries $10m., plant $4m., raw materials $5m.. related noun breakdownbreak down

break somethingdown

1 to make something fall down, open, etc. by hitting it hardFirefighters had to break the door down to reach the people trapped inside.2 to destroy something or make it disappear, especially a particular feeling or attitude that someone hasto break down resistance/oppositionto break down someone's reserve/shynessAttempts must be made to break down the barriers of fear and hostility which divide the two communities.3 to divide something into parts in order to analyze it or make it easier to doBreak your expenditures down into bills, food, and other.Each lesson is broken down into several units. related noun breakdown4 to make a substance separate into parts or change into a different form in a chemical processSugar and starch are broken down in the stomach. related noun breakdownbreak down

break for something

to suddenly run toward something when you are trying to escapeShe had to hold him back as he tried to break for the door.break for

break in

to enter a building by forceBurglars had broken in while we were away. related noun break-inbreak in

break someone/something in

1 to train someone or something in something new that they must doto break in new recruitsThe young horse was not yet broken in (= trained to carry a rider).2 to wear something, especially new shoes, until they become comfortablebreak in

break in (on something)

to interrupt or disturb somethingShe longed to break in on their conversation, but didn't want to appear rude. [+ speech]“I didn't do it!” she broke in.break inbreak in on

break into something

1 to enter a building by force; to open a car, etc. by forceOur car was broken into last week. related noun break-in2 to begin laughing, singing, etc. suddenlyAs the president's car pulled up, the crowd broke into loud applause.3 to suddenly start running; to start running faster than beforeHe broke into a run when he saw the police.Her horse broke into a trot.4 to open and use something that has been kept for an emergencyThey had to break into the emergency food supplies.5 to be successful when you get involved in somethingThe company is having difficulty breaking into new markets.break into

break off

1 to become separated from something as a result of forceThe back section of the plane had broken off.2 to stop speaking or stop doing something for a timeHe broke off in the middle of a sentence.break off

break somethingoff

1 to separate something, using forceShe broke off a piece of chocolate and gave it to me.2 to end something suddenlyBritain threatened to break off diplomatic relations.They've broken off their engagement.break off

break out

(of war, fighting, or other unpleasant events) to start suddenlyThey had escaped to America shortly before war broke out in 1939.Fighting had broken out between rival groups of fans.Fire broke out during the night. related noun outbreakbreak out

break out (of something)

to escape from a place or situationSeveral prisoners broke out of the jail.She needed to break out of her daily routine and do something exciting. related noun breakoutbreak outbreak out of

break out in something

to suddenly become covered in somethingHer face broke out in a rash.He broke out in a cold sweat (= for example, from fear).break out in

break through

to make new and important discoveriesScientists think they are beginning to break through in the fight against cancer. related noun breakthroughbreak through

break through


break through something

1 to make a way through something using forceDemonstrators broke through the police lines.There was a police line around the site but the demonstrators still broke through.2 (of the sun or moon) to appear from behind cloudsThe sun finally broke through in the afternoon.Finally the moon broke through the clouds and they could see their way.break through

break through something

to succeed in dealing with an attitude that someone has and the difficulties it creates synonym overcomeHe had finally managed to break through her reserve.break through

break up

1 to separate into smaller piecesThe ship broke up on the rocks.2 to come to an endTheir marriage has broken up. related noun breakup3 to go away in different directionsThe meeting broke up at eleven o'clock.4 to laugh very hard5 when a person who is talking on a cell phone breaks up, you can no longer hear them clearly because the signal has been interruptedbreak up

break someoneup

to make someone laugh very hardWoody Allen just breaks me up.break up

break somethingup

1 to make something separate into smaller pieces; to divide something into smaller partsThe ship was broken up for scrap metal.Sentences can be broken up into clauses.2 to end a relationship, a company, etc.They decided to break up the partnership. related noun breakup3 to make people leave something or stop doing something, especially by using forcePolice were called in to break up the fight.break up

break up (with someone)

to end a relationship with someoneShe just broke up with her boyfriend. related noun breakupbreak upbreak up with

break with something

to end a connection with somethingto break with tradition/old habits/the pastHe broke with the party on the issue of healthcare.break with
Usage noteUsage note: illustratereferring to a chart, graph, or tableThis bar chart illustrates how many journeys people made on public transportation over a three-month period.This table compares bus, train, and taxi use between April and June.The results are shown in the chart below.In this pie chart, the survey results are broken down by age.This pie chart breaks down the survey results by age.As can be seen from these results, younger people use buses more than older people.According to these figures, bus travel accounts for 60% of public transportation use.From the data in the above graph, it is apparent that buses are the most widely used form of public transportation.⇨ Language Banks at evidence, fall, increase, proportion, surprisingUsage noteUsage note: Injuriesbeing injuredhave a fall/an injuryreceive/suffer/sustain a serious injury/a hairline fracture/a gunshot wound/a concussion/whiplash injurieshurt/injure your ankle/back/legdamage the brain/an ankle ligament/your liver/the optic nerve/the skinpull/strain/tear a hamstring/ligament/muscle/tendonsprain/twist your ankle/wristbreak a bone/your collarbone/your leg/three ribsfracture/crack your skullbreak/chip/knock out/lose a toothburst/perforate your eardrumdislocate your finger/hip/jaw/shoulder/elbowbruise/cut/graze your arm/knee/shoulderburn/scald yourself/your tonguebang/bump/hit your elbow/head/knee (on/against something)treating injuriestreat someone for burns/a head injury/a stab woundexamine/clean/dress/bandage/treat a bullet woundrepair a damaged/torn ligament/tendon/cartilageamputate/cut off an arm/a finger/a foot/a leg/a limbput on (formal) apply/take off a Band-Aid™/a sterile dressing/a bandageneed/require/put in/get/take out stitchesput on/rub on (formal) apply cream/ointment/lotionhave/receive/undergo physical therapyUsage noteUsage note: words that mean “break”burst The balloon hit a tree and burst.crack The ice started to crack.crumble Crumble the cheese into a bowl.cut Now cut the wire in two.fracture He fell and fractured his hip.shatter The glass hit the floor and shattered.smash Vandals had smashed the car's windshield.snap I snapped the pencil in half.split The cushion split open and sent feathers everywhere.tear She tore the letter into pieces.All these verbs, except cut, can be used with or without an object.