breaks; broke/ˈbroʊk/; broken/ˈbroʊkən/; breaking breaks; broke/ˈbroʊk/; broken/ˈbroʊkən/; breaking
Learner's definition of BREAK
1 : to separate (something) into parts or pieces often in a sudden and forceful or violent way
She broke the cup when she dropped it on the floor.
I broke the stick in two/half. = I broke the stick into two pieces.
Break the chocolate bar into pieces so that everyone can have some.
It is easiest to break a chain at its weakest link.
2 : to cause (a bone) to separate into two or more pieces
3 [no object] : to open suddenly especially because of pressure from inside
— see also break open (below)
4 a [+ object] : to cause (something, such as a machine) to stop working by damaging it b [no object] : to stop working because of being damaged
— see also break down (below)
5 : to split or divide (something) into smaller units or parts
— see also break into (below)
6 a : to go through or make a hole in (a surface, someone's skin, etc.) b : to go through (something) by using force— usually used figuratively
— see also break down (below), break through (below) c : to cut into and turn over the surface of (the ground, soil, etc.)
7 [+ object] : to fail to do what is required by (a law, a promise, etc.)
She may not have broken the law, but she acted wrongly.
You broke your promise.
Students who break the rules will be punished.
He broke the contract by failing to make the payments on time.
You can get fined for breaking the speed limit. [=for driving faster than you are legally allowed to drive]
8 a : to destroy or defeat (something) by using force or pressure
They kept putting pressure on him, but they couldn't break his spirit/determination/resistance.
They finally broke his will to resist.
[no object] b [+ object] : to defeat or ruin (someone): to cause (someone) to fail or to stop trying or fighting
c [no object] : to lose your health, mental or physical strength, or control— usually + under
He swore that he would break his rivals/competitors.
They kept putting pressure on him, but they couldn't break him.
These huge losses are going to break [=ruin] me financially!
This film could make or break her career. [=the success or failure of her career could depend on the success or failure of this film]
— see also break down (below) d [+ object] : to train (a wild animal) to behave in a way that is useful to people
9 a : to cause the end of (something that is strong or that has continued for a long time)
b : to cause (someone) to give up a habit— + of
A group of moderates from both parties are negotiating to break the deadlock in Congress.
Many people in the industry were very upset when the government broke the strike.
He decided to break all ties/links with them. [=to end all connections with them]
She scored a goal in the last minute of the game, breaking a 2–2 tie.
It's never easy to break [=kick, give up] a bad habit.
10 a : to interrupt (something)
The peaceful silence of the evening was broken by a sudden shout.
The commotion broke my train of thought.
The sudden noise broke my concentration. [=made it impossible for me to concentrate]
Sometimes I sing while I'm driving, just to break (up) the monotony of my commute.
The horizon line was broken only by a few stands of trees in the distance.
The planes broke formation [=stopped flying together in an organized group] and took off in different directions.
— see also break up 4 (below) b : to cause (something, such as a curse or spell) to no longer be effective
11 [no object] : to stop an activity (such as working) for a brief period of time 12 a [+ object] : to tell (bad news) to someone in a kind or gentle way b [+ object] : to make (something, such as news) publicly known for the first time c [no object], of news : to become publicly known 13 [+ object] : to reduce the speed or force of (something)
14 a : to be higher or more than (a specified number, measurement, etc.) b : to do better than (a record) c : to have a score that is lower than or higher than (a specified total)
15 a : to find or provide an explanation or solution for (something, such as a criminal case) b : to find the meaning of (a secret code)
16 a of the weather : to change by becoming rainy, clear, cool, etc., after a long time b of clouds : to separate so that the sky or sun can be seen c of a storm : to start suddenly 17 [no object], literary : to begin when the sun rises
18 a : to begin running quickly b : to stop fighting and run away
19 a : to give smaller bills or coins for (a large bill) b : to use (a large bill) to pay for something that costs much less than the value of the bill 20 [no object], of a wave : to curl over and fall onto or near land
21 a of someone's voice : to change sharply in tone or pitch because of strong emotion b of a boy's voice : to change from the high voice of a boy to the lower voice of a man 22 [no object], sports, of a thrown or struck ball : to turn or curve
The putt broke to the left as it neared the hole.
a pitch that breaks away from the batter
The pitcher threw a breaking ball. [=a pitch that curves]
23 tennis : to win against (an opponent who is serving)
24 [no object] : to happen or develop
For the team to succeed, everything has to break right for them. [=for the team to succeed, they have to be lucky]
Things have been breaking [=going] well for the company in the past six months.
break away[phrasal verb]
1 : to get away from someone or something especially by using force or effort— usually + from— often used figuratively 2 : to separate or become separate from a larger group, country, etc.— usually + from
break down[phrasal verb]
1 a of a machine : to stop working properly
— see also 1break 4 (above) b : to fail or stop usually in a complete and sudden way
Negotiations have broken down. [=collapsed]
The government's argument broke down completely when new evidence came to light.
Their marriage had broken down [=failed], and there was nothing to do about it.
2 a : to become overwhelmed by strong emotions
— see also 1break 8c (above) b break down or break (someone) down or break down (someone) : to lose or cause (someone) to lose strength or the ability to resist or fight
The prisoner finally broke down under intensive questioning.
She finally broke down and got a cell phone. [=she bought a cell phone after resisting the desire to buy one for a long time]
Intensive questioning finally broke the prisoner down.
— see also 1break 8b (above)
break down or break (something) down or break down (something)
3 a : to become separated or to separate (something) into simpler substances
b : to be able to be divided or to divide (something) into parts or groups
The foods you eat break down in the body's digestive system.
The body's digestive system breaks food down.
Water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis. = Water can break down into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis.
The report breaks down into three sections. = The report is broken down into three sections. [=the report has three sections]
The author has broken down the nation's history into three distinct periods.
4 break (something) down or break down (something) : to use force to push (something) to the ground
— sometimes used figuratively
break a door down
break down a barrier
: to take in as much money as you spend: to operate without either a loss or a profit
: to become able to move or escape by using force or effort: to get away from someone or something that holds or limits you— often + from or of
break from[phrasal verb]
break from (someone or something)
: to end a relationship, connection, or agreement with (someone or something)
break in[phrasal verb]
1 : to enter a house, building, etc., illegally
— see also break into 1 (below), break-in
2 : to interrupt or disturb someone or something
— see also break into 4 (below)
3 break in or break (someone) in or break in (someone) : to start or help (someone) to start a new activity, job, etc.
Baseball was very different when he first broke in [=started playing] as a catcher in 1962.
The job involves a wide variety of tasks, so we try to break new employees in gradually.
The band is breaking in a new backup singer.
break (something) in or break in (something)
4 a : to use (something, such as a new pair of shoes) for a period of time so that it becomes comfortable b : to operate (a new machine) carefully for a period of time until it is ready for regular use
break into[phrasal verb]
break into (something)
1 : to enter (a house, building, etc.) illegally and especially by using force
— see also break in 1 (above)
2 : to begin to do or have (something) suddenly
She broke into tears. [=she suddenly began to cry]
The audience broke into applause. [=the audience suddenly began applauding]
His face broke into a smile. [=he suddenly smiled]
The horse broke into a gallop. [=the horse suddenly began to gallop]
She broke into song. [=she suddenly began to sing]
3 : to enter or get started in (something, such as a profession) 4 : to interrupt (something)
— see also break in 2 (above)
1 : to suddenly become loose: to suddenly stop being attached to something 2 : to get away from someone or something by using force or effort— often + from
— see also all hell breaks loose at hell
break off[phrasal verb]
1 break off or break off (something) or break (something) off or break (something) off (something) : to become separated or cause (something) to become separated because of force or violence
The piece of plaster broke off easily.
The handle broke off when I accidentally dropped the cup.
I accidentally broke the cup's handle off. = I accidentally broke the handle off the cup.
I broke [=tore] a piece of bread off (the loaf) and ate it.
2 break off or break off (something) : to stop or end suddenly or cause (something) to stop or end suddenly
The speaker broke off (speaking) in the middle of a sentence.
At that point the recording suddenly breaks off. [=ends]
The two countries have broken off diplomatic relations.
The negotiations resumed soon after they were broken off.
They had a fight and broke off [=called off] their engagement.
break open[phrasal verb]
break open or break open (something) or break (something) open
: to open or to cause (something) to open suddenly
The pods broke open and the seeds scattered on the wind.
The police broke open the door.
The burglars broke open the locked safe.
— see also 1break 3 (above)
break out[phrasal verb]
1 : to begin happening suddenly
A fire broke out in the kitchen.
A riot broke out in the prison.
There is a danger that war could break out soon.
2 a : to suddenly begin to have sweat, a rash, etc., on your skin b : to appear on the skin suddenly 3 : to escape from a prison, jail, etc.— often + of— often used figuratively 4 break (something) out or break out (something) : to take (something) from the place where it is stored so that it can be used
break through[phrasal verb]
break through or break through (something)
1 : to use force to get through (something, such as a barrier)
— sometimes used figuratively
The enemy attacked our defenses but they weren't able to break through.
The enemy finally broke through our defenses and defeated us.
The prisoners broke through the wall and escaped.
— see also 1break 6b (above)
2 of the sun : to shine through (clouds)
break up[phrasal verb]
break up or break (something) up or break up (something)
1 a : to separate into parts or pieces or cause (something) to separate into parts or pieces b : to end or cause (something) to end
The demonstration broke up when the police arrived.
The party began to break up shortly after midnight.
The police broke up the demonstration.
He got hurt while trying to break up a fight.
break up a terrorist organization
2 break up : to end a romantic relationship, marriage, etc.— often + with 3 break upUS, informal or break (someone) up : to begin laughing or cause (someone) to begin laughing suddenly and in a way that is difficult to control
I always break up [=crack up] when I hear that joke.
Everyone broke up [=burst into laughter, busted out laughing] when they saw what he was wearing.
That joke always breaks me up. [=cracks me up]
break (something) up or break up (something)
4 a : to change the regular quality or appearance of (something)
— see also 1break 10 (above) b : to separate the parts of (something) so that it is not complete
5 break upBritish, of a school : to come to the end of a period of instruction (such as a term)
break with[phrasal verb]
break with (someone or something)
: to end a relationship, connection, or agreement with (someone or something)
He broke with his former friends and colleagues when he decided to support the conservative candidate.
a strong desire to break with tradition/the past
A number of people have broken with the church over this issue.
Learner's definition of BREAK
1 a : a crack, hole, etc., that is caused by damage, injury, or pressure
b : an opening or space in something: an opening that makes it possible for someone or something to enter or pass through something
The tank is reinforced to prevent breaks and leaks.
The break [=fracture] in her arm will take months to heal.
Watch out for breaks [=(more commonly) cracks] in the ice.
2 [count] : something that causes a change or interruption
3 a : a time when something stops
b : a brief period of time during which someone stops an activity
It has rained for five days without a break. [=it has been raining constantly for five days]
We chatted during a break in the game.
It rained all day. We waited for a break in the weather [=we waited for a time when the rain stopped], but it never came.
especially : a brief period of time during which a worker is allowed to rest, eat, etc., instead of working
I'm tired. Let's take a break. [=let's stop doing whatever we are doing for a short period of time]
It was a long drive, but we took lots of breaks. [=we briefly stopped driving many times]
a bathroom break [=a brief period of time when you stop doing something in order to use a bathroom]
c : a longer period of time when someone is not working or doing some other activity d : a time when many people are not working or going to school because of a holiday, vacation, etc.
All employees are entitled to two breaks during the workday.
We've been working all day without a break.
It's only five minutes until break time. [=the time when workers are supposed to stop working for a brief period of time]
4 [count] : a planned interruption in a radio or television program 5 [singular] : a sudden fast runespecially : a fast run by someone who is trying to escape 6 [count] : a situation or event that is lucky or unluckyespecially : a lucky situation or event that makes success possible
She's still hoping to get her big/lucky break in show business.
She got the breaks she needed to succeed.
She gets all the breaks. [=she is very lucky]
For the team to succeed, all the breaks will have to go their way. [=they will have to be lucky]
(US) I just can't seem to catch a break. [=I am unlucky; I never have good luck]
◊ Informal expressions like those are the breaks and that's the breaks mean that something bad or unlucky should be thought of or accepted as the kind of thing that often happens to people.
7 [count] : something that helps a particular person or group
Can you give me a break on the price? = Can I get a break on the price? [=can you lower the price for me?]
People with small children are being given a tax break. [=are being required to pay less in taxes than other people]
8 a : a sudden ending of a relationship
b : a change from what was done before— usually + with or from
The crisis has caused a break (in diplomatic relations) between the two countries.
If you don't want to keep dating him, you should just make a clean break [=you should end your relationship quickly] instead of dragging it out.
She talked about leaving her husband for years, but she never found the courage to make the break.
We need to make a clean break with the past. [=we need to stop doing things as they were done in the past and start doing them in a completely new way]
The company has made a sharp break with tradition.
Her latest novel marks a complete break with/from her earlier fiction. [=her latest novel is completely different from her earlier fiction]
9 [noncount], literary — used in the phrase break of day to refer to the time of morning when the sun can first be seen 10 [count] : a sharp change in the tone or pitch of someone's voice 11 [noncount], sports : a curve in the path of a thrown or hit ball 12 [count], tennis : the act of defeating an opponent who is serving
give me a breakinformal
1 — used to tell someone to stop bothering you or treating you unfairly 2 — used to say that you do not believe or are disgusted about what someone has said or done
give (someone) a break
: to stop treating (someone) in a strict or harsh way