v. & n.
v. (past broke or archaic brake; past part. broken or archaic broke) 1 tr. & intr. a separate into pieces under a blow or strain; shatter. b make or become inoperative, esp. from damage (the toaster has broken). c break a bone in or dislocate (part of the body). d break the skin of (the head or crown). 2 a tr. cause or effect an interruption in (broke our journey; the spell was broken; broke the silence). b intr. have an interval between spells of work (let's break now; we broke for tea). 3 tr. fail to observe or keep (a law, promise, etc.). 4 a tr. & intr. make or become subdued or weakened; yield or cause to yield (broke his spirit; he broke under the strain). b tr. weaken the effect of (a fall, blow, etc.). c tr. = break in 3c. d tr. defeat, destroy (broke the enemy's power). e tr. defeat the object of (a strike, e.g. by engaging other personnel). 5 tr. surpass (a record). 6 intr. (foll. by with) quarrel or cease association with (another person etc.). 7 tr. a be no longer subject to (a habit). b (foll. by of) cause (a person) to be free of a habit (broke them of their addiction). 8 tr. & intr. reveal or be revealed; (cause to) become known (broke the news; the story broke on Friday). 9 intr. a (of the weather) change suddenly, esp. after a fine spell. b (of waves) curl over and dissolve into foam. c (of the day) dawn. d (of clouds) move apart; show a gap. e (of a storm) begin violently. 10 tr. Electr. disconnect (a circuit). 11 intr. a (of the voice) change with emotion. b (of a boy's voice) change in register etc. at puberty. 12 tr. a (often foll. by up) divide (a set etc.) into parts, e.g. by selling to different buyers. b change (a banknote etc.) for coins. 13 tr. ruin (an individual or institution) financially (see also BROKE adj.). 14 tr. penetrate (e.g. a safe) by force. 15 tr. decipher (a code). 16 tr. make (a way, path, etc.) by separating obstacles. 17 intr. burst forth (the sun broke through the clouds). 18 Mil. a intr. (of troops) disperse in confusion. b tr. make a rupture in (ranks). 19 a intr. (usu. foll. by free, loose, out, etc.) escape from constraint by a sudden effort. b tr. escape or emerge from (prison, bounds, cover, etc.). 20 tr. Tennis etc. win a game against (an opponent's service). 21 intr. Boxing etc. (of two fighters, usu. at the referee's command) come out of a clinch. 22 Mil. tr. demote (an officer). 23 intr. esp. Stock Exch. (of prices) fall sharply. 24 intr. Cricket (of a bowled ball) change direction on bouncing. 25 intr. Billiards etc. disperse the balls at the beginning of a game. 26 tr. unfurl (a flag etc.). 27 tr. Phonet. subject (a vowel) to fracture. 28 tr. fail to rejoin (one's ship) after absence on leave. 29 tr. disprove (an alibi).
n. 1 a an act or instance of breaking. b a point where something is broken; a gap. 2 an interval, an interruption; a pause in work. 3 a sudden dash (esp. to escape). 4 colloq. a a piece of good luck; a fair chance. b (also bad break) an unfortunate remark or action, a blunder. 5 Cricket a change in direction of a bowled ball on bouncing. 6 Billiards etc. a a series of points scored during one turn. b the opening shot that disperses the balls. 7 Mus. (in jazz) a short unaccompanied passage for a soloist, usu. improvised. 8 Electr. a discontinuity in a circuit. bad break colloq. 1 a piece of bad luck. 2 a mistake or blunder. break away make or become free or separate (see also BREAKAWAY). break the back of 1 do the hardest or greatest part of. 2 overburden (a person). break bulk see BULK. break crop a crop grown to avoid the continual growing of cereals. break-dancing an energetic style of street-dancing, developed by US Blacks. break down 1 a fail in mechanical action; cease to function. b (of human relationships etc.) fail, collapse. c fail in (esp. mental) health. d be overcome by emotion; collapse in tears. 2 a demolish, destroy. b suppress (resistance). c force (a person) to yield under pressure. 3 analyse into components (see also BREAKDOWN). break even emerge from a transaction etc. with neither profit nor loss. break a person's heart see HEART. break the ice 1 begin to overcome formality or shyness, esp. between strangers. 2 make a start. break in 1 enter premises by force, esp. with criminal intent. 2 interrupt. 3 a accustom to a habit etc. b wear etc. until comfortable. c tame or discipline (an animal); accustom (a horse) to saddle and bridle etc. 4 Austral. & NZ bring (virgin land) into cultivation. break-in n. an illegal forced entry into premises, esp. with criminal intent. breaking and entering (formerly) the illegal entering of a building with intent to commit a felony. breaking-point the point of greatest strain, at which a thing breaks or a person gives way. break in on disturb; interrupt. break into 1 enter forcibly or violently. 2 a suddenly begin, burst forth with (a song, laughter, etc.). b suddenly change one's pace for (a faster one) (broke into a gallop). 3 interrupt. break-line Printing the last line of a paragraph (usu. not of full length). break of day dawn. break off 1 detach by breaking. 2 bring to an end. 3 cease talking etc. break open open forcibly. break out 1 escape by force, esp. from prison. 2 begin suddenly; burst forth (then violence broke out). 3 (foll. by in) become covered in (a rash etc.). 4 exclaim. 5 release (a run-up flag). 6 US a open up (a receptacle) and remove its contents. b remove (articles) from a place of storage. break-out n. a forcible escape. break point 1 a place or time at which an interruption or change is made. 2 Computing (usu. breakpoint) a place in a computer program where the sequence of instructions is interrupted, esp. by another program. 3 a (in lawn tennis) a point which would win the game for the player(s) receiving service. b the situation at which the receiver(s) may break service by winning such a point. 4 = breaking-point. break step get out of step. break up 1 break into small pieces. 2 disperse; disband. 3 end the school term. 4 a terminate a relationship; disband. b cause to do this. 5 (of the weather) change suddenly (esp. after a fine spell). 6 esp. US a upset or be upset. b excite or be excited. c convulse or be convulsed (see also BREAKUP). break wind release gas from the anus. break one's word see WORD.
[ OE brecan f. Gmc ]