Meaning of BREAK in English

I. break 1 S1 W1 /breɪk/ BrE AmE verb ( past tense broke /brəʊk $ broʊk/, past participle broken /ˈbrəʊkən $ ˈbroʊ-/)

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ break , ↑ outbreak , ↑ breakage ; adjective : ↑ breakable ≠ ↑ unbreakable , ↑ broken ≠ ↑ unbroken ; verb : ↑ break ]

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: brecan ]


a) [transitive] if you break something, you make it separate into two or more pieces, for example by hitting it, dropping it, or bending it:

I had to break a window to get into the house.

Don’t lean on the fence like that – you’ll break it!

break something in half/two

He broke the biscuit in half and handed one piece to me.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt it over a gentle heat.

b) [intransitive] if something breaks, it separates into two or more pieces:

He kept pulling at the rope until it broke.

The frames are made of plastic and they tend to break quite easily.

2 . BONES [transitive] to damage a bone in your body by making it crack or split:

She fell downstairs and broke her hip.


a) [transitive] to damage a machine so that it does not work properly:

Don’t mess about with my camera – you’ll break it.

Someone’s broken the TV.

b) [intransitive] if a machine breaks, it stops working properly:

The washing machine’s broken again.

4 . RULES/LAWS [transitive] to disobey a rule or law:

They’re breaking the law by employing such young children.

If you break the rules, you will be punished.

The cameras catch motorists who break the speed limit.

5 . PROMISE/AGREEMENT [transitive] to not do something that you have promised to do or signed an agreement to do:

I never break my promises.

You betrayed me. You broke your word.

break an agreement/contract

He was worried that he might be breaking his contract.

6 . STOP/REST [intransitive] to stop for a short time in order to have a rest or eat something

break for

Shall we break for lunch now?

7 . END SOMETHING [transitive] to stop something from continuing:

We need to break the cycle of poverty and crime in the inner cities.

We took turns driving, in order to try and break the monotony.

New talks will begin on Monday in an effort to break the deadlock.

8 . DEFEAT SOMEBODY [transitive] to make someone feel that they have been completely defeated and they cannot continue working or living:

Losing his business nearly broke him.

I won’t give in. I won’t be broken by him.

9 . DESTROY AN ORGANIZATION [transitive] to damage an organization so badly that it no longer has any power:

The government succeeded in breaking the unions.

10 . DAY/DAWN [intransitive] when the day or the ↑ dawn breaks, the sky gets light:

Dawn was breaking by the time we arrived home.

11 . STORM [intransitive] if a storm breaks, it begins:

We were keen to get back to the hotel before the storm broke.

12 . WEATHER [intransitive] if the weather breaks, it suddenly changes and becomes cold or wet:

The following day the weather broke and we had ten days of solid rain.

13 . WAVES [intransitive] when waves break, they fall onto the land at the edge of the water:

We sat and watched the waves breaking on the shore

14 . SB’S VOICE [intransitive]

a) when a boy’s voice breaks, it becomes lower and starts to sound like a man’s voice:

He was fifteen, and his voice was just beginning to break.

b) if your voice breaks, it does not sound smooth because you are feeling strong emotions:

Her voice broke as she told us what had happened.

15 . NEWS

a) [intransitive] if news about an important event breaks, it becomes known:

News of his resignation broke yesterday.

The minister has refused to give any interviews since the scandal broke.

b) [transitive] if you break unpleasant news to someone, you tell it to them:

I didn’t know how I was going to break the news to my mother.

The doctor finally broke it to me that there was no cure.

16 . break a habit to stop doing something that you do regularly, especially something that you should not do:

a new drug which helps smokers to break their habit

17 . break a record to do something even faster or even better than the previous best time, amount etc:

an attempt to break the 10,000-metres world record

18 . break a journey British English to stop somewhere for a short time during a long journey:

We decided to break our journey in Oxford.

19 . break sb’s heart to make someone very unhappy by ending a relationship with them or doing something that upsets them a lot:

He broke my heart when he left me.

It’ll break your father’s heart if you tell him you’re giving up college.

20 . break a strike to force workers to end a ↑ strike :

The government has threatened to bring in the army to break the 10-month-old strike.

21 . break a link/tie/connection to end a relationship with a person or organization:

The US has now broken all diplomatic links with the regime.

Sometimes it is necessary to break family ties in order to protect the child.

22 . break the skin to cut the skin on your body:

Their teeth are sharp enough to break the skin.

23 . break the back of something to finish the main or worst part of something:

I think we’ve broken the back of the job now.

24 . break the bank to cost a lot of money, or more money than you have:

A new hard drive doesn’t have to break the bank.

25 . break sb’s concentration to interrupt someone and stop them from being able to continue thinking or talking about something:

The slightest sound would break his concentration.

26 . break the silence to end a period of silence by talking or making a noise:

The silence was broken by a loud scream.

27 . break sb’s spirit to destroy someone’s feeling of determination:

They could not break her spirit.

The spirit of our soldiers will never be broken.

28 . break sb’s power to take away someone’s position of power or control:

At last the power of the Church was finally broken.

29 . break the ice informal to make people feel more friendly and willing to talk to each other:

Sam’s arrival broke the ice and people began to talk and laugh.

30 . break a code to succeed in understanding something that is written in a secret way:

Scientists worked day and night to break the code.

31 . break wind to allow gas to escape from your bottom, making a noise and an unpleasant smell

32 . break (sb’s) serve to win a game in tennis when your opponent is starting the game by hitting the ball first:

Hewitt broke serve twice in the second set.

33 . break a leg spoken used to wish someone luck, especially just before they perform on stage

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 5)

■ break + NOUN

▪ break your promise

I’ll never forgive him for breaking his promise to me.

▪ break your word (=break your promise)

I’ve promised to do it and I never break my word.

▪ break your vow (=break a serious or formal promise)

He accused her of breaking her marriage vows.

▪ break (off) your engagement

In the end she decided to break their engagement.

▪ break a contract

He took the company to court for breaking the contract.

▪ break an agreement

This action broke the international agreement of 1925.

• • •


■ to break something

▪ break verb [transitive] to damage something and make it separate into pieces, for example by dropping it or hitting it:

Careful you don’t break the chair.


He broke his leg.

▪ smash verb [transitive] to break something with a lot of force:

A policeman smashed his camera.

▪ snap verb [transitive] to break something into two pieces, making a loud noise – used especially about long thin objects:

He snapped the sticks in two.

▪ split verb [transitive] to separate something into two pieces along a straight line:

Using a sharp knife, split the melon in half.

▪ fracture verb [transitive] to damage a bone, especially so that a line appears on the surface:

I fell over and fractured my wrist.

▪ tear /teə $ ter/ verb [transitive] to damage paper or cloth by pulling it so that it separates into pieces:

She tore up the letter and put it in the bin.


I tore my jacket.

■ to become broken

▪ break verb [intransitive] to become damaged and separate into pieces:

Plastic breaks quite easily.

▪ smash verb [intransitive] to break after being hit with a lot of force:

The bowl smashed as it hit the floor.

▪ shatter verb [intransitive] to break into a lot of small pieces:

The glass shattered all over the pavement.

▪ crack verb [intransitive] if something cracks, a line appears on the surface, which means that it could later break into separate pieces:

The ice was starting to crack.

▪ burst verb [intransitive] if a tyre, balloon, pipe etc bursts, it gets a hole and air or liquid suddenly comes out of it:

She blew up the balloon until it burst.

▪ split verb [intransitive] to break in a straight line:

The damp had caused the wood to split.

▪ crumble verb [intransitive] to break into a powder or a lot of small pieces:

The cork just crumbled in my hand.

break away phrasal verb

1 . to leave a group or political party and form another group, usually because of a disagreement:

More than 30 Labour MPs broke away to form a new left-wing party.

break away from

They broke away from the national union and set up their own local organization.

⇨ ↑ breakaway 2

2 . to leave your home, family, or job and become independent

break away from

I felt the need to break away from home.

3 . to move away from someone who is holding you:

She started crying and tried to break away.

break away from

She broke away from him and ran to the door.

4 . to move away from other people in a race or game:

Radcliffe broke away 200 metres before the finish.

5 . to become loose and no longer attached to something:

Part of the plane’s wing had broken away.

break down phrasal verb

1 . if a car or machine breaks down, it stops working:

The car broke down just north of Paris.

The printing machines are always breaking down.

⇨ ↑ breakdown

2 . to fail or stop working in a successful way:

Negotiations broke down after only two days.

I left London when my marriage broke down.

⇨ ↑ breakdown

3 . break something ↔ down if you break down a door, you hit it so hard that it breaks and falls to the ground:

Police had to break down the door to get into the flat.

4 . break something ↔ down to change or remove something that prevents people from working together and having a successful relationship with each other:

Getting young people together will help to break down the barriers between them.

It takes a long time to break down prejudices.

5 . if a substance breaks down, or something breaks it down, it changes as a result of a chemical process

break something ↔ down

Food is broken down in the stomach.

Bacteria are added to help break down the sewage.

6 . to be unable to stop yourself crying, especially in public:

He broke down and cried.

She broke down in tears when she heard the news.

7 . break something ↔ down to separate something into smaller parts so that it is easier to do or understand:

He showed us the whole dance, then broke it down so that we could learn it more easily.

The question can be broken down into two parts.

⇨ ↑ breakdown

break for something phrasal verb

to suddenly run towards something, especially in order to escape from someone:

He broke for the door, but the guards got there before he did.

break in phrasal verb

1 . to enter a building by using force, in order to steal something:

Thieves broke in and stole £10,000 worth of computer equipment.

⇨ ↑ break-in

2 . to interrupt someone when they are speaking

break in on

I didn’t want to break in on his telephone conversation.

break in with

Dad would occasionally break in with an amusing comment.

3 . break something ↔ in to make new shoes or boots less stiff and more comfortable by wearing them:

I went for a walk to break in my new boots.

4 . break somebody in to help a person get used to a certain way of behaving or working:

She’s quite new to the job, so we’re still breaking her in.

5 . break something ↔ in to teach a young horse to carry people on its back:

We break the horses in when they’re about two years old.

break into something phrasal verb

1 . to enter a building or car by using force, in order to steal something:

Someone broke into my car and stole the radio.

Her house was broken into last week.

2 . to become involved in a new job or business activity:

She made an attempt to break into journalism.

It’s a profession that is very hard to break into.

Many British firms have failed in their attempts to break into the American market.

3 . to start to spend money that you did not want to spend:

I don’t want to break into my savings unless I have to.

4 . break into a run/trot etc to suddenly start running:

He broke into a run as he came round the corner.

5 . break into a smile/a song/applause etc to suddenly start smiling, singing etc:

Her face broke into a smile.

The audience broke into loud applause.

break somebody of something phrasal verb

to make someone stop having a bad habit:

Try to break yourself of the habit of eating between meals.

break off phrasal verb

1 . to suddenly stop talking:

She started to speak, then broke off while a waitress served us coffee.

He broke off in mid-sentence to shake hands with the new arrivals.

break something ↔ off

I broke off the conversation and answered the phone.

2 . break something ↔ off to end a relationship:

She broke off their engagement only a few weeks before they were due to be married.

The US has broken off diplomatic relations with the regime.

3 . if something breaks off, or if you break it off, it comes loose and is no longer attached to something else:

One of the car’s wing mirrors had broken off.

break something ↔ off

He broke off a piece of bread.

break out phrasal verb

1 . if something unpleasant such as a fire, fight, or war breaks out, it starts to happen:

I was still living in London when the war broke out.

Does everyone know what to do if a fire breaks out?

Fighting broke out between demonstrators and the police.

⇨ ↑ outbreak

2 . to escape from a prison

break out of

Three men have broken out of a top-security jail.

⇨ ↑ breakout

3 . to change the way you live because you feel bored

break out of

She felt the need to break out of her daily routine.

4 . break out in spots/a rash/a sweat etc if you break out in spots etc, they appear on your skin:

I broke out in a painful rash.

My whole body broke out in a sweat.

break through phrasal verb

1 . break through (something) to manage to get past or through something that is in your way:

Several demonstrators broke through the barriers despite warnings from the police.

After hours of fierce fighting, rebels broke through and captured the capital.

2 . break through (something) if the sun breaks through, you can see it when you could not see it before because there were clouds:

The sun broke through at around lunch time.

The sun soon broke through the mist.

3 . to manage to do something successfully when there is a difficulty that is preventing you:

He’s a very talented young actor who’s just ready to break through.

break through into

It is possible that at this election some of the minority parties might succeed in breaking through into parliament.

⇨ ↑ breakthrough

break up phrasal verb

1 . if something breaks up, or if you break it up, it breaks into a lot of small pieces:

It seems that the plane just broke up in the air.

break something ↔ up

Use a fork to break up the soil.

2 . break something ↔ up to separate something into several smaller parts:

There are plans to break the company up into several smaller independent companies.

You need a few trees and bushes to break up the lawn.

3 . break something ↔ up to stop a fight:

Three policemen were needed to break up the fight.

4 . break something ↔ up to make people leave a place where they have been meeting or protesting:

Government soldiers broke up the demonstration.

Police moved in to break up the meeting.

5 . if a marriage, group of people, or relationship breaks up, the people in it separate and do not live or work together any more:

He lost his job and his marriage broke up.

The couple broke up last year.

Many bands break up because of personality clashes between the musicians.

break up with

Has Sam really broken up with Lucy?

⇨ ↑ breakup

6 . if a meeting or party breaks up, people start to leave:

The party didn’t break up until after midnight.

The meeting broke up without any agreement.

7 . British English when a school breaks up, it closes for a holiday:

School breaks up next week.

break up for

When do you break up for Easter?

8 . break somebody up American English informal to make someone laugh by saying or doing something funny:

He breaks me up!

break with somebody/something phrasal verb

1 . to leave a group of people or an organization, especially because you have had a disagreement with them:

She had broken with her family years ago.

They broke with the Communist Party and set up a new party.

2 . break with tradition/the past to stop following old customs and do something in a completely different way:

Now is the time to break with the past.

His work broke with tradition in many ways.

II. break 2 S2 W2 BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ break , ↑ outbreak , ↑ breakage ; adjective : ↑ breakable ≠ ↑ unbreakable , ↑ broken ≠ ↑ unbroken ; verb : ↑ break ]

1 . STOP WORKING [countable] a period of time when you stop working in order to rest, eat etc:

We’ll have a short break for lunch, then start again at two o'clock.

Let’s take a ten-minute break.

We’d worked for ten hours without a break.

I’ll go shopping during my lunch break.

2 . STOP DOING SOMETHING [countable] a period of time when you stop doing something before you start again

break from

I wanted a break from university life.

She decided to take a career break when she had children.

break in

a welcome break in my normal routine

3 . HOLIDAY [countable] a short holiday:

I was beginning to feel that I needed a break.

We flew off for a week’s break in Spain.

They’re offering weekend breaks in Paris for only £100.

the Easter/Christmas etc break

Are you looking forward to the summer break?

4 . AT SCHOOL [uncountable] the time during the school day when classes stop and teachers and students can rest, eat, play etc

at break

I’ll speak to you at break.

They get together with their friends at break time.

5 . ON TV [countable] a pause for advertisements during a television or radio programme:

Join us again after the break.

We’ll be back with more after a short break.

6 . SOMETHING STOPS HAPPENING [countable] a period of time when something stops happening before it starts again

break in

We’ll go for a walk if there’s a break in the rain.

Latecomers will be admitted at a suitable break in the performance.

She waited for a break in the conversation.

There was no sign of a break in the weather (=an improvement in bad weather) .

7 . END A RELATIONSHIP [singular] a time when you leave a person or group, or end a relationship with someone:

I wanted a clean break so that I could restart my life.

It was years before I plucked up enough courage to make the break and leave him.

break with

He was beginning to regret his break with the Labour Party.

8 . SPACE/HOLE [countable] a space or hole in something

break in

We crawled through a break in the hedge.

The sun shone through a break in the clouds.

9 . CHANCE [countable] informal a sudden or unexpected chance to do something that allows you to become successful in your job:

There are hundreds of young musicians out there looking for their first break.

He got his first big break in 1998.

a lucky break

10 . BONES [countable] the place where a bone in your body has broken:

It’s quite a bad break, which will take several months to heal.

11 . TENNIS [countable] a situation in a game of tennis in which you win a game when your opponent is starting the game by hitting the ball first:

She really needs a break of serve now if she wants to win this match.

12 . SNOOKER [countable] the number of points that a player wins when it is their turn to hit the ball in a game such as ↑ snooker

13 . break with tradition/the past a time when people stop following old customs and do something in a completely different way:

It is time for a complete break with the past.

14 . make a break for something to suddenly start running towards something in order to escape from a place:

As soon as the guard’s back was turned, they made a break for the door.

Two of the prisoners made a break for it but were soon recaptured.

15 . give me/it a break! spoken used when you want someone to stop doing or saying something that is annoying you

16 . give somebody a break spoken to stop being strict with someone so that a situation becomes easier for them:

Give the kid a break. It’s only his second day on the job.

17 . the break of day literary the time early in the morning when it starts getting light

• • •


■ verbs

▪ have/take a break

After two hours, she took a break and switched on the radio.

▪ need a break

I’m sorry, I can’t do any more - I need a break.


▪ a short/quick break

Shall we have a quick five-minute break?

▪ a lunch break

What time’s your lunch break?

▪ a coffee/tea break

How about a coffee break?

▪ a morning/afternoon break

I don’t usually have time for a morning break.

▪ a well-earned break (=one that you deserve)

Everyone’s looking forward to a well-earned break when the exams are over.

• • •


▪ vacation especially American English , holiday especially British English time you spend away from school or work:

Are you taking a vacation this summer?


We met on holiday in Cyprus.


What are you doing in the school holidays?

▪ holiday a day that is set by law, when no one has to go to work or school:

the Thanksgiving holiday


New Year's Day is a national holiday.


In 2002, there was an extra public holiday to mark the Queen's golden jubilee.


the August bank holiday (=day when all the banks and shops are closed – used in British English)

▪ break a time when you stop working or studying in order to rest, or a short vacation from school:

a ten-minute coffee break


Lots of college kids come to the beaches during the spring break.

▪ leave a time when you are allowed not to work:

We get four weeks' annual leave (=paid time off work each year) .


He has been taking a lot of sick leave (=time off work because you are ill) recently.


Angela is on maternity leave (= time off work when having a baby) .


He was given compassionate leave (=time off work because someone close to you has died, is very ill etc) to go to his father's funeral.

▪ sabbatical [usually singular] a period when someone, especially a teacher, stops doing their usual work in order to study or travel:

She was on sabbatical for six months.


I'm thinking of taking a sabbatical.

▪ furlough a period of time when a soldier or someone working in another country can return to their own country as a holiday:

While on furlough, he and his girlfriend got married.

▪ R & R (rest and relaxation) a holiday, especially one given to people in the army, navy etc after a long period of hard work or during a war:

Soldiers in Vietnam were taken to Hawaii for R & R.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.