Definition of break verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//breɪk//
    ; NAmE NAmE//breɪk//
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they break
    BrE BrE//breɪk//
    ; NAmE NAmE//breɪk//
    he / she / it breaks
    BrE BrE//breɪks//
    ; NAmE NAmE//breɪks//
    past simple broke
    BrE BrE//brəʊk//
    ; NAmE NAmE//broʊk//
    past participle broken
    BrE BrE//ˈbrəʊkən//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈbroʊkən//
    -ing form breaking
    BrE BrE//ˈbreɪkɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈbreɪkɪŋ//
    Youth, Justice, Loneliness, Injuries, How machines work
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    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 under 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 chocolate in two. 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 vase hit the floor and shattered. smashVandals had smashed two windows. snapI snapped the pencil in half. splitThe bag had split open on the way home. tearShe tore the letter into pieces.All these verbs, except cut, can be used with or without an object. CollocationsInjuriesBeing injured have a fall/​an injury receive/​suffer/​sustain a serious injury/​a hairline fracture/(especially British English) whiplash/​a gunshot wound 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 bruise/​cut/​graze your arm/​knee/​shoulder burn/​scald yourself/​your tongue bang/​bump/​hit/ (informal) bash 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 (especially North American English) a Band-Aid™/(British English) a plaster/​a bandage need/​require/​put in/ (especially British English) have (out)/ (North American English) get (out) stitches put on/​rub on/ (formal) apply cream/​ointment/​lotion have/​receive/​undergo (British English) physiotherapy/(North American English) physical therapy See related entries: Injuries
  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 has broken. break something I think I've broken the washing machine. See related entries: How machines work
  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. See related entries: Injuries
  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 (= travelling faster than the law allows). See related entries: Justice
  8. stop for short time
  9. 5  [intransitive, transitive] 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. break something a broken night’s sleep (= a night during which you often wake up) (especially British English) We broke our journey in Oxford (= stopped in Oxford on the way to the place we were going to).
  10. end something
  11. 6[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.
  12. 7[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.
  13. 8[transitive] break something to end a connection with something or a relationship with somebody He broke all ties with his parents.
  14. escape
  15. 9[intransitive] break free (from somebody/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.
  16. destroy, be destroyed
  17. 10[transitive, intransitive] break (somebody/something) to destroy something or make somebody/something weaker; to become weak or be destroyed to break somebody’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.
  18. make somebody feel bad
  19. 11[transitive] break somebody to make somebody feel so sad, lonely, etc. that they cannot live a normal life The death of his wife broke him completely. See related entries: Loneliness
  20. of weather
  21. 12[intransitive] to change suddenly, usually after a period when it has been fine
  22. show opening
  23. 13[intransitive] to show an opening The clouds broke and the sun came out.
  24. of day/dawn/storm
  25. 14[intransitive] when the day or dawn or a storm breaks, it begins Dawn was breaking when they finally left. see also daybreak
  26. of news
  27. 15[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)
  28. 16[transitive] break it/the news to somebody to be the first to tell somebody some bad news Who's going to break it to her? I'm sorry to be the one to break the news to you.
  29. of voice
  30. 17[intransitive] if somebody’s voice breaks, it changes its tone because of emotion Her voice broke as she told us the dreadful news.
  31. 18[intransitive] when a boy’s voice breaks, it becomes permanently deeper at about the age of 13 or 14 See related entries: Youth
  32. a record
  33. 19  [transitive] break a record to do something better, faster, etc. than anyone has ever done it before She had broken the world 100 metres record. The movie broke all box-office records.
  34. of waves
  35. 20[intransitive] when waves break, they fall and are dissolved into foam, usually near land the sound of waves breaking on the beach The sea was breaking over the wrecked ship.
  36. something secret
  37. 21[transitive] break a code/cipher to find the meaning of something secret to break a code
  38. money
  39. 22[transitive] break something (especially North American English) to change a banknote for coins Can you break a twenty-dollar bill?
  40. Word OriginOld English brecan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch breken and German brechen, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin frangere ‘to break’.Extra examples He broke off abruptly when Jo walked in. She broke down in tears as she spoke to reporters. She broke off from the conversation to answer the telephone. She broke the bar in two and gave a piece to me. She broke the chocolate up into small pieces. The glass broke into hundreds of pieces. Their marriage had broken down irretrievably. He broke the chocolate in two and gave me half. He was breaking the speed limit. How did this dish get broken? I didn’t mean to break the window. I don’t know how to break it to him. I think I’ve broken the video. I’ve never broken my word; why should I do it now? Just break the news to her gently. Perhaps it is more courageous to break a promise if it means saving the economy. She dropped the plate and it broke into pieces. She had broken the conditions of her bail. She has already broken three appointments. Some companies have broken sanctions by supplying arms to the warring states. They insist that they have not broken any rules. Would you be willing to break the law to achieve your goal? to break an agreement/​a contractIdioms Idioms containing break are at the entries for the nouns and adjectives in the idioms, for example break somebody’s heart is at heart.  Phrasal Verbsbreak awaybreak downbreak somethingdownbreak for somethingbreak inbreak somebody 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 American Dictionary entry: break