Main definitions of break in English

: break1break2



  • 1Separate into pieces as a result of a blow, shock, or strain.

    [no object] ‘the rope broke with a loud snap’
    [with object] ‘windows in the street were broken by the blast’
    • ‘Her metal harness buckle breaks and she plunges to her death.’
    • ‘His brows creased as he tried to break a piece of chocolate and he smiled when he broke it off.’
    • ‘A flood wall broke and water is flooding the city at an alarming rate.’
    • ‘Six ropes had been broken and small trees around had all been pulled down.’
    • ‘Take four eggs and break each one separately in a saucer to test for quality before adding to the sugar and beat until the mix is creamy.’
    • ‘The mirror had been broken, its shattered pieces falling onto the wooden chest and green carpeting.’
    • ‘At the head of the table, he broke pieces of bread into his soup with trembling hands.’
    • ‘We then come to the mast's boom that has broken into two pieces over the ship's hull.’
    • ‘The crew survived, but the aircraft exploded when its payload of munitions blew up breaking the windows of many local houses in the blast.’
    • ‘She scribbled answers hard on the paper, constantly breaking the lead of her mechanical pencil.’
    • ‘Most of the rubbish was polystyrene and the children were just breaking it into small pieces and strewing it all over the ground, and we all know what a mess this material makes when broken.’
    • ‘She ran to the vending machines and broke the glass.’
    • ‘After a drawn-out moment, the barrier surrounding me broke.’
    • ‘The car was stolen after a thief broke a window at Mr Westwood's home, taking his car keys and mobile telephone.’
    • ‘With a few quick steps, she grasped the extinguisher, and rammed it into the glass door of the vending machine, breaking the glass.’
    • ‘I tore off a tiny piece and it broke every time I stretched it.’
    • ‘‘The men then tied a tow rope to the machine and broke the security housing around it,’ added Mr Patel.’
    • ‘The cup broke under the strain.’
    • ‘I broke it into small pieces and put it in a bowl.’
    • ‘Frank broke a handful of crackers into his soup.’
    shatter, smash, smash to smithereens, crack, snap, fracture, fragment, splinter
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Sustain an injury involving the fracture of a bone or bones in a part of the body.
      [with object] ‘she had broken her leg in two places’
      [no object] ‘what if his leg had broken?’
      • ‘Osteoporosis raises the risk of breaking a hip, yet femoral neck fractures in such patients are not always seen on x ray.’
      • ‘No one saw the attack which left Mrs Anderton, a lively and intelligent widow, with a fractured hip and broken wrist.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, she landed badly, breaking a leg and fracturing a bone at the bottom of her spine.’
      • ‘He broke his shoulder, fractured eight ribs, punctured a lung and almost died.’
      • ‘One woman broke a leg and the others had minor injuries.’
      • ‘Emily had broken her arm falling off a piano stool and was ever so desperate to tell me all about it!’
      • ‘A pensioner tripped over a pub's open cellar doors and broke his neck, an inquest heard.’
      • ‘She broke her foot recently in practice and will not be competing until after Christmas.’
      • ‘He spent more than a month in hospital recovering from his many injuries, which included breaking both legs, his collar bone and jaw and he is still undergoing treatment.’
      • ‘It was her fault that Fay had broken her wrist.’
      • ‘Another patient broke both his legs jumping from the third floor.’
      • ‘Coastguards and paramedics sprinted more than a mile to the aid of a woman who had broken her ankle while walking along a cliff edge in Whitby.’
      • ‘The passenger - who has not been named - broke his leg and suffered a minor head injury after both were struck by the car.’
      • ‘In 1968 she was a passenger in a car when a lorry came out of a side turning and crashed into her, breaking both her arms and legs and causing other injuries.’
      • ‘He fractured both legs, broke his right ankle and had deep cuts to his forehead.’
      • ‘Kelly, aged 24, suffered whiplash and a back injury, but her daughter broke her leg.’
      • ‘She slipped on damp grass, breaking a leg, cracking a bone in the other and hurting her shoulder.’
      • ‘The 18-year-old fell from the roof of Crumbs Bakery suffering extensive injuries by breaking both his legs and an arm.’
      • ‘He had sustained serious head injuries, and broke his right elbow and left leg.’
      • ‘A pensioner who broke her ankle while walking her dog has spoken out in praise of a scheme to boost community spirit.’
      fracture, crack, smash
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2[with object]Cause a cut or graze in (the skin)
      ‘the bite had scarcely broken the skin’
      • ‘I looked at the palms of my hands, and saw that I had broken the skin with my nails.’
      • ‘New-fallen powder may be soft, but after a time it can compress, melt, form a layer of ice on its surface that is quite capable of breaking the skin.’
      • ‘If I had done it only at a slightly different angle, it probably wouldn't have even broken the skin.’
      • ‘With Patton in the saddle and leaning forward, the horse arose, reared back his head, and struck Patton on the eyebrow, breaking the skin.’
      • ‘Each time she attempted to move she felt the sharp edge of the blade break her skin.’
      • ‘Her mother, Julie, removed her sandals and examined her feet and legs for signs that the needle had broken the skin.’
      • ‘He clenched his fists so tightly that he broke the skin on his palms.’
      • ‘Without wasting a second he forced the blade of the knife against my throat and pushed as hard as he could without breaking the skin.’
      • ‘His long nails streaked down his face, breaking the delicate skin.’
      • ‘It transpires that the snake had actually managed to bite through Ian's shinguards before breaking the skin.’
      • ‘It was only a nip and it didn't break the skin, but it is about what the dog may do the next time.’
      • ‘I sucked in a sharp breath as the blade broke my skin.’
      • ‘Looking down I realized that I had been holding the blade so tight that I had broken the skin.’
      • ‘She punched the wall, breaking the skin on her fist.’
      • ‘It didn't break the skin and they didn't think it was serious until a few weeks ago half of her body was going numb.’
      • ‘The gun barrel dug so deep into her ribs that it actually broke the skin.’
      • ‘Her blade traced a horizontal line on his throat, a scratch that just barely broke the skin, but not enough to draw blood.’
      • ‘In the ensuing struggle she bit the security guard, breaking the skin and causing reddening and abrasions, the court heard.’
      • ‘I knew that it hadn't broken the skin, but she scraped her nail against my skin hard enough for me to feel pain.’
      • ‘A few shards of glass got stuck in my palm, breaking the skin.’
      pierce, puncture, penetrate, perforate
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3Make or become inoperative.
      [no object] ‘the machine has broken and they can't fix it until next week’
      [with object] ‘he's broken the video’
      • ‘It would seem like the sort of machine you'd break just by turning it off.’
      • ‘I just figured some machine broke causing a big power outage.’
      • ‘They protested against the factories by breaking the machines.’
      • ‘The ticket machine had broken and the punters were advised to pay on the train.’
      • ‘To their credit, the locals at first rebelled by breaking the machine so that no one could pay, but over time the revolution vanished like sand through so many fists.’
      • ‘The video then shows him break the camera and the picture goes dead.’
      • ‘Someone broke the machine by jamming pencils in to it.’
      • ‘He turned and knocked the machine over breaking it.’
      • ‘And, just to add insult to injury, I've even broken his bloody coffee machine!’
      • ‘Right now, we've broken two bubble machines and have to buy a third one.’
      • ‘When the washing machine broke he fixed it so well it washed the clothes twice as fast, and picked up National Radio.’
      • ‘He thinks he broke the machine when he accidentally minimized a window.’
      • ‘If he didn't watch what he was doing, he really was going to break one of these machines.’
      • ‘If your washing machine breaks it will be guaranteed.’
      • ‘However, in the ensuing minutes there was an argument, during which the sewing machine got broken.’
      • ‘Second, I check whether I'm still able to judge speed and distance accurately by making sure I can get my car key in the door lock without breaking it or scratching the paintwork too much.’
      • ‘We should simply break the machines and return to our caves.’
      • ‘My wife is emphatic about having to wear a certain outfit she pulled from the dirty clothes hamper to the party we have been invited to later, so, of course, the washing machine breaks.’
      • ‘Her video camera broke, and they took shelter in the women's restroom to work on it.’
      • ‘When she went back in after the last strike days she discovered that whoever had been trying to operate her machine had broken it instead.’
      stop working, cease to function, cease to work, break down, go wrong, give out, develop a fault, malfunction, be damaged, be unusable
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4[no object](of the amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus) be discharged when the sac is ruptured in the first stages of labour.
      ‘she realized her waters had broken’
      • ‘Although Sara was due in early June, her water broke yesterday.’
      • ‘The day after at 6.15 am I woke to go to the toilet, I felt a pop and it turned out to be my waters breaking.’
      • ‘Looking down at her feet, she realized that her water had just broken.’
      • ‘Rebecca's waters broke at about 4.30 am at their home in Kiltie Road, Tiptree.’
      • ‘On Monday morning at 5.30 Susanne woke me to tell me that her waters had broken.’
      • ‘But as luck would have it Jane's water broke at 11 am so we returned to the hospital.’
      • ‘She went to the bathroom and her waters broke, and she felt the urge to push.’
      • ‘Most commonly, about 90% of the time, your water breaks when your cervix is fully dilated.’
      • ‘She was twenty-six weeks pregnant when her waters broke on Friday, December 7.’
      • ‘The consultant agreed I could have an epidural if I agreed to have my waters broken - seemed like a fair deal to me.’
      • ‘When I was seven and a half months pregnant, I was on the way to the photocopier in the office, when my waters broke.’
      • ‘Her waters broke as soon as she got into the ambulance.’
      • ‘Then to make matters worse, I thought my waters had broken as I felt the back of me suddenly become wet.’
      • ‘A few minutes into the journey the contractions got so bad Rachel had to clamber into the back seat where her waters broke.’
      • ‘Emma's waters broke while talking to Ed, so it was him that got her to the hospital and held her hand throughout labour.’
      • ‘Two days before my mothers' water broke, my father took me to the Florida Mall and we brought me some clothes.’
      • ‘I was desperately wanting her waters to break while I was there so we could all experience the joy of childbirth together, but they didn't.’
      • ‘Her labour was going like clockwork when her waters broke on the evening of her due date.’
      • ‘Then at about midday or she calls to say, rather matter-of-factly, I thought, that her waters had broken and that she was having the baby.’
      • ‘I was in and out of hospital for about three weeks and then my waters broke.’
    5. 1.5informal [with object]Open (a safe) forcibly.
      • ‘The maid broke the safe and stole money and jewellery.’
      • ‘They broke the safe in the Accounts Section and made away with the day's receipts.’
      • ‘If a burglar breaks the safe and steals the guns, I won't be held responsible for their criminal use because I did what I reasonably could to secure them.’
    6. 1.6[with object]Use (a banknote) to pay for something and receive change out of the transaction.
      ‘she had to break a tenner’
      • ‘I haven't got any change, and I don't want to break a fiver.’
      • ‘Most of us are more inclined to break a note than fish around trying to find the right change.’
      • ‘Like my sister said, once you break a twenty the rest just disappears.’
    7. 1.7[no object](of two boxers or wrestlers) come out of a clinch, especially at the referee's command.
      ‘I was acting as referee and telling them to break’
      • ‘He said the first damaging blow came after the referee had told them to break and stop punching.’
      • ‘He possibly could have cautioned him for holding and hitting as well, or he could have simply ordered them to break.’
      • ‘The ref was not between the fighters but he was instructing them to break.’
    8. 1.8[no object]Make the first stroke at the beginning of a game of billiards, pool, or snooker.
      • ‘He breaks and sits down without looking where the balls have spread.’
      • ‘In each rack, you break, spot anything that went in, and take cueball in hand to begin the frame.’
      • ‘He breaks hard, shoots straight, and has no fear… how is he out of the tournament?’
      • ‘Ronnie O'Sullivan breaks to get the final underway but the opening frame proves a scrappy affair lasting half-an-hour.’
    9. 1.9[with object]Unfurl (a flag or sail).
      • ‘When the chief Scout Master broke the flag a huge roar went up from the boys.’
      • ‘We opened with the Canadian National Anthem and our Scout and Venture Leader broke the flag to open the festivities.’
      • ‘I even broke out the sail for a few minutes until I got bored and switched back to paddling.’
    10. 1.10[with object]Succeed in deciphering (a code)
      ‘ciphers are easily broken by the new wonder machines’
      • ‘Here is where Alan Turing broke the codes that maybe won the second world war.’
      • ‘In an interactive lecture, he then examined the tricks used to break such codes.’
      • ‘Another way to become rich and famous is to devise, or break a code.’
      • ‘It would be a bit unfair to offer clues right now, if someone is close to breaking the code.’
      • ‘Then you have to spend time breaking the code and making your own key, which only lets you hotwire the vehicle.’
      • ‘While attempting to break the Nazi codes, his character becomes obsessed with finding the woman he loves.’
      • ‘This was discovered by an astute cryptanalyst at Central Bureau and in April 1943 that code was broken.’
      • ‘They were desperately looking for any clue that would help them break the code.’
      • ‘Well done to all who managed to break the code yesterday!’
      • ‘He starts to punch in numbers at random in an attempt to break the code and patch into the system.’
      • ‘It's a computer program that's used to break ciphers.’
      • ‘At that point they'd broken the code, and they told people whether or not they'd received cells.’
      • ‘When all the analyses were ready, the code was broken.’
      • ‘There then follows a long and tedious account of how they broke the enigma code.’
      • ‘I feel that I am very close to breaking the code.’
      • ‘It was created in 1943 to break German codes.’
      • ‘But if you could factor large numbers then you could break these codes.’
      • ‘There is little doubt that trying to break simple codes enhances one's understanding of cryptography.’
      • ‘We have a large exhibit on World War II cipher machines and the machines that broke the enemy's codes.’
      • ‘I started trying to break the code and was getting nowhere.’
      decipher, decode, decrypt, unravel, solve, work out
      View synonyms
    11. 1.11[with object]Disprove (an alibi).
      • ‘The former husband emerged as the most promising suspect after the detectives were able to break his alibi.’
      • ‘He was arrested then released when the police couldn't break his alibi.’
      • ‘But analysis of soil in his trouser cuffs broke his alibi and clinched the case.’
  • 2[with object] Interrupt (a continuity, sequence, or course)

    ‘the new government broke the pattern of growth’
    ‘his concentration was broken by a sound’
    • ‘Max yelled, raised one eyebrow, paused for effect, breaking the rhythm.’
    • ‘It means forgiving those who have hurt you and breaking the cycle of abuse.’
    • ‘We have to break this vicious cycle between drug dependency and crime.’
    • ‘Imprisonment does not break the cycle of offending and addiction.’
    • ‘Ballet had created continuity in my life, but now that the left side of my body did not serve me, the continuity was broken.’
    • ‘After a long pause he broke the tranquility again’
    • ‘Then came metal hulls and steam power, and the historical line of continuity was broken.’
    • ‘Theo, his concentration finally broken, stopped typing and looked up.’
    • ‘Everyone has a part to play in breaking this vicious cycle.’
    • ‘Generally, if a week is not one of employment, continuity is broken, so that the employee has to start again to pick up continuity.’
    • ‘Your slumbers are broken bright and early with a cup of tea brought to your tent.’
    • ‘We can then break the poverty cycle by giving these disadvantaged children opportunities to get work and employment.’
    • ‘We found it worth venturing into Woolacombe to break the routine.’
    • ‘The key to breaking the cycle is to boost demand and take up the slack in the economy.’
    • ‘He will enlist the help of three minders to clear his path and stop the crowd breaking his concentration.’
    • ‘The team broke its five-game losing streak.’
    • ‘The solitude was broken, bizarrely, by bumping into Michael Palin and his film crew working on their next project in the Hoggar Mountains.’
    • ‘They must start to break their sequence of drawn games and start winning consistently if they are to retain their title.’
    • ‘England's win against West Indies last year broke a sequence of nine decisive matches which were all won by the team fielding first.’
    • ‘The schools offer a possible way of breaking the cycle of illiteracy.’
    interrupt, disturb, interfere with
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Put an end to (a silence) by speaking or making contact.
      ‘it was some time before he broke the silence’
      • ‘A father of two has broken his silence after keeping his sighting of a ghost 15 years ago at Woodville Halls Theatre a fearful secret.’
      • ‘My mother broke the silence with a question, ‘Do you live nearby?’’
      • ‘‘Melissa,’ said Matthew breaking the silence and speaking for the first time since the fight had started.’
      • ‘At last, he broke the silence: ‘What are you writing about these days, anyway?’’
      • ‘A staff member caught up in the raid broke his silence on the experience yesterday.’
      • ‘Liam did not break his silence over the abuse until two years ago.’
      • ‘She has broken her silence to speak of her determination to return to the post she has held for the past 10 years.’
      • ‘But it was not until last summer that she broke her silence and called her former lover, when she feared biographers would unearth the details.’
      • ‘More recently the firm broke its silence and revealed he had been hit by a viral infection and would not be back at work until May 10.’
      • ‘And now that they have broken their silence, it is hoped that others will find the courage to do the same.’
      • ‘The actress has broken her silence about the whirlwind romance.’
      • ‘Yesterday, she broke her silence on the whispering campaign against her.’
      • ‘Now he breaks his silence about the flawed evidence.’
      • ‘He recently broke his silence, admitting that he went to England after losing his job in Paris and had tried to commit suicide.’
      • ‘The former girlfriend of a man accused of murder admitted yesterday that she broke her silence about the killing after police threatened to implicate her.’
      • ‘The coroner has urged those who know the names of the killers to break their silence.’
      • ‘Then an unknown pilot broke the silence and asked, ‘Wasn't I married to you once?’’
      • ‘She decided to break her silence because she thought it was the only way the council would listen to her concerns even though it meant sacrificing her job.’
      • ‘She felt it was her job to break the silence between the two.’
      • ‘Police were alerted to the abuse around 20 years after it was carried out when the victim broke his silence.’
    2. 2.2British Make a pause in (a journey)
      ‘we will break our journey in Venice’
      • ‘I have broken the journey to dive on Sweden's west coast and on some freshwater wrecks in Lake Vattern.’
      • ‘Our journey back home to Doncaster from the Lakes is broken at Skipton to do our weekend shopping.’
      • ‘The newspapers reported that some passengers were breaking their journey at Earl's Court just to ride the escalator.’
      • ‘The Nepal trek will be broken by a transfer between two points.’
      • ‘They wished to break their journey for the night, and replenish their stock of fresh food before tackling the Great River.’
      • ‘If travelling from the distant south, consider breaking your journey with a day diving the Clyde or Oban.’
      • ‘Some of the long-distance festival visitors have become semi-regulars, breaking their train journeys at York just to sup a pint at The Maltings.’
      • ‘He probably caught the later train from Nottingham, and never broke his journey at Sheffield at all.’
      • ‘I wondered whether I should have stopped to talk with him that day, whether I should have broken my walk.’
      • ‘He started to search for a sheltered spot where he could break his journey.’
      • ‘A list of visiting ships is still posted in reception, just as it was when they broke their voyages here en route to South Africa, and their guests came ashore in open boats.’
      • ‘There always seemed to be somebody there breaking their walk and brewing up.’
      • ‘Although the trip could comfortably be accomplished in one day I chose to break my journey at Middletown for an overnight stay.’
      • ‘He broke his journey for the winter in Germany.’
      • ‘Break the monotony of a long journey with frequent stops.’
      • ‘As part of their project, they created an Oak tree grove, with picnic and seating area, an ideal spot to rest or break a long journey.’
      • ‘He has a house in Burgundy, about halfway between Tuscany and England, and it was agreed to break the journey there.’
      • ‘If you are planning to break your journey midway, some airlines offer free stopovers while others charge a fee.’
      • ‘There is plenty to do here and you may well decide to break your journey.’
      • ‘I broke my journey several times.’
    3. 2.3[no object]Stop proceedings in order to have a pause or vacation.
      ‘at mid-morning they broke for coffee’
      • ‘I actually love spring break, and desperately want to break for spring.’
      • ‘The group meets every fortnight though they're set to break for the summer.’
      • ‘If you must break for tea, keep it quick.’
      • ‘We break for lunch of salad with couscous, salmon and chicken.’
      • ‘Packing was in full flow when I got to the office, but we broke for lunch, after which we tackled the cupboard full of unclaimed review kit.’
      • ‘We repeat that a few times and then break for lunch.’
      • ‘Parliament didn't exactly clean off their desks before they broke for summer recess last Friday.’
      • ‘They are up extremely high, and they decide to break for lunch.’
      • ‘The club will run until June, break for the summer and resume again in September.’
      • ‘When school broke for summer last week, 91 students filed out of High Park N.S. and went home to enjoy the summer holidays.’
      • ‘By the time Council finally passed an operating budget and broke for recess in late June, more than a few players lay injured on the field.’
      • ‘They last met on August 7 when the fourth round of six-way talks broke for a recess.’
      • ‘We broke for sticky cake at 11, then continued working.’
      • ‘At 8.30, with half the agenda dealt with (nine minutes per item), we broke for a moment.’
      • ‘It will then break for almost a month, before returning to the Guildhall for two to three weeks from July 2.’
      • ‘Anyway, school broke for holidays, and I forgot all about it.’
      • ‘The association will break for the summer but the executive will continue to meet as usual.’
      • ‘Each division we'll then play on alternative Saturdays and unlike the junior divisions will not break for Christmas.’
      • ‘Even when they broke for dinner, the taunting continued.’
      • ‘I broke for breakfast and got all tied up with washing and washing up and ended up wandering over to Asda through the lovely warm sun, so I didn't actually get anything else written until after lunch.’
      stop, pause, have a break, take a break, have a rest
      View synonyms
    4. 2.4Lessen the impact of (a fall)
      ‘she put out an arm to break her fall’
      • ‘He was the only one who jumped over the precipice hoping that they'd be a tree to break his fall.’
      • ‘As she fell backwards she put her hands out to break the fall.’
      • ‘Her involuntary reflexes kicked in, and she threw out her arms, managing to break his fall.’
      • ‘The move was so unexpected that he lost his balance, and threw his arm out to break his fall.’
      • ‘Down I fell towards the ground, but on the way I hit several branches, which really broke my fall.’
      • ‘She tripped on the bottom step, yelling out automatically and stretching out her arms to break her fall.’
      • ‘He survived with three cracked vertebrae and a dislocated finger after the roof of a shack broke his fall.’
      • ‘My right arm went out to break my fall and I ended up landing right on my shoulder.’
      • ‘The backpack had broken her fall, but it hadn't kept the breath from getting knocked out of her.’
      • ‘All three friends ran and jumped into the hole, hoping that there was something soft to break their fall.’
      • ‘Miraculously, a tree broke his fall.’
      • ‘Who hasn't broken an impending fall with an outstretched hand, which can jar the bones of the elbow out of place?’
      • ‘He landed in some bushes that broke his fall.’
      • ‘In an attempt to break her fall she put her hand out and it hit the wall, breaking a bone in her wrist.’
      • ‘The crewman lost his balance and lurched toward a forward panel, instinctively breaking his fall with an out-thrust hand.’
      • ‘The stone of the remaining steps would have made violent impact with his head if something had not broken his fall.’
      • ‘Don't put your hands out to break your fall, or you might injure yourself.’
      • ‘When she and Matt fell, she had stuck out her hands to break the fall.’
      • ‘She fell to the dirt like a doll, her arms breaking the fall painfully.’
      • ‘His fall was broken by some bins.’
      cushion, lessen the impact of, reduce the impact of, soften the impact of, take the edge off, diminish, moderate, mitigate
      View synonyms
    5. 2.5Disconnect or interrupt (an electric circuit)
      ‘a multimeter able to measure current without having to break the circuit under test’
      • ‘A circuit breaker has a mechanism for automatically breaking an electrical circuit.’
      • ‘By bouncing, the reed breaks an electrical circuit.’
      • ‘A switch works by breaking the circuit, which stops the current.’
      • ‘If either voltage or current is too big you could break the circuit.’
    6. 2.6Stop oneself being subject to (a habit)
      ‘try to break the habit of adding salt at the table’
      • ‘Here are some methods for breaking old habits and creating new, desirable ones.’
      • ‘She shrugged it off and told herself it would take some time to break her old habits.’
      • ‘If you spot smoking triggers write down how you could deal with them if you were to stop smoking - a good way to break a habit is to replace it with a new one.’
      • ‘How do you break habits when you're not as confident in the new methods, or at least in your skill with using them?’
      • ‘You are attempting something that is inherently very difficult: breaking old habits.’
      • ‘We would have to break old habits that perhaps were once useful, but don't serve their purpose anymore.’
      • ‘It took a long time - and a lot of support - for him to break his habit, and he still doesn't feel like the person he was.’
      • ‘Imagine how hard it must be to break a habit that's lasted ten years.’
      • ‘Honestly, a course isn't going to help break the bad habits that caused the problem in the first place.’
      • ‘Really wanting to break this bad habit is the first step to stopping.’
      • ‘I suggest you pick a few of your unhealthy eating habits, and give yourself a month to work on breaking those habits.’
      • ‘The addictions would probably be easier to break once she began to deal with what had happened to her.’
      • ‘In the course of the 1980s, the recognition of nicotine addiction offered an explanation of the difficulty experienced by some in breaking the smoking habit.’
      • ‘The Canadian Cancer Society is urging smokers trying to quit to plan out how they are going to break their habit.’
      • ‘I never managed to break the teenage habit of jiggling my legs and fidgeting when I have to sit still for a long time.’
      • ‘Old habits are hard to break.’
      • ‘The pamphlet offered nothing about breaking habits.’
      • ‘Also, of course, there is the reality that 20 or 30 years of habit are not broken in a fortnight.’
      • ‘For adults over 25, many doctors regard it as too late to break their eating habits and make them fit and lean again.’
      • ‘So don't feel guilty if your new habits are broken at certain times.’
      give up, relinquish, drop, get out of
      View synonyms
    7. 2.7Surpass (a record)
      ‘the film broke box office records in the US’
      • ‘She holds the trump card after breaking the world record three times this year.’
      • ‘He has broken every goalscoring record there has ever been.’
      • ‘She broke her own record of 4.89 m which she set in Birmingham on Sunday.’
      • ‘He broke the lap record four times, the first coming in lap one from a standing start, the second in lap two.’
      • ‘The unbeatable women's softball team won a third straight gold, breaking 18 Olympic records in the process.’
      • ‘I know I could have done 100 mph, but I have broken the record and that is the most important thing.’
      • ‘The film broke box-office records and won seven Academy Awards.’
      • ‘When an athlete breaks a world record, the previous record-holder's title is eclipsed.’
      • ‘A fitness fanatic has broken the world record for the most chin-ups done in one hour.’
      • ‘Irish cinema-goers are breaking box-office records, according to new research.’
      • ‘It broke the previous record for the world's largest choir last Christmas with 6,846 young voices at the Manchester Evening News Arena.’
      • ‘The films, too, have proved a hit with an older audience, breaking box-office records for a foreign film.’
      • ‘Thereafter, I broke the lap record five times and still only finished fourth, so that demonstrates what small margins you are operating within.’
      • ‘There have been some interesting results with long standing records being broken.’
      • ‘He has broken the record for most expensive film three times, but has always managed to produce interesting films that have made money.’
      • ‘He got into the final with an Olympic record, and then broke the Olympic record again to get the gold medal.’
      • ‘People forget that this team broke all sorts of try-scoring records.’
      • ‘He has already said he will try to break the world record.’
      • ‘He broke the club's try-scoring record last season but has been sidelined this term after undergoing a knee reconstruction.’
      • ‘This film broke box office attendance records in Cuba and achieved world-wide acclaim.’
      exceed, surpass, beat, better, cap, top, trump, outdo, outstrip, go beyond, eclipse, put in the shade
      View synonyms
  • 3[with object] Fail to observe (a law, regulation, or agreement)

    ‘the council says it will prosecute traders who break the law’
    ‘a legally binding contract which can only be broken by mutual consent’
    • ‘He walked free from court after a jury cleared him of breaking the Official Secrets Act.’
    • ‘Clubs could choose to terminate contracts, if players break them.’
    • ‘He said he believed it was impossible to do the journey in under 10 hours unless he broke the speed limit.’
    • ‘They're certainly breaking their contractual agreement with the bank by participating in these rebate schemes.’
    • ‘The company failed to meet deadline requirements and broke the agreements.’
    • ‘Agreements are broken, witnesses held in contempt, there is respect for no one.’
    • ‘I turn now to the matter of fines for such things as wilful desertion, breaking lease, breaking the agreement, or failing to attend the tribunal or mediation.’
    • ‘Traders who break the law by selling to children risk a £5,000 fine and six months imprisonment.’
    • ‘Police say that anyone caught breaking the law could be liable for prosecution or given an official warning.’
    • ‘Do you regularly break the rules or minor laws rather than put up with the frustration of obeying them?’
    • ‘And police are urging people to call them if they suspect someone is regularly breaking the law by drink-driving.’
    • ‘‘Many doctors did not realise they were breaking the law by failing to seek the consent of relatives,’ he reported.’
    • ‘What the judges, politicians and others concerned need to remember is a burglar is breaking the law and must be prosecuted.’
    • ‘The authorities will be able to deport a harmless Egyptian cabbie who came to Britain as an economic migrant, for breaking immigration rules.’
    • ‘This past summer, the legislature broke the agreement.’
    • ‘I observe how society keeps breaking the rules.’
    • ‘At an emotional news conference, members of the women's eight apologised for breaking national Olympic rules and expressed regret at condemning their team mate.’
    • ‘It seems there's little incentive to adhere to the law, especially when breaking the rules makes such good business sense.’
    • ‘If the country were a separate member of the European Union, it would be facing certain prosecution for breaking environmental law.’
    • ‘These players are breaking the rules.’
    contravene, violate, fail to comply with, fail to observe, disobey, infringe, breach, commit a breach of, transgress against
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1Fail to continue with (a self-imposed discipline)
      ‘diets started without preparation are broken all the time’
      • ‘She resists the urge to break her diet.’
      • ‘It is no wonder that winter time is when most people break their exercise routines, start unhealthy eating habits and gain weight.’
      • ‘I didn't realize Vikki wasn't willing to break her healthy habits and was unable to convince her to share fish 'n chips with me.’
  • 4[with object] Crush the emotional strength, spirit, or resistance of.

    ‘the idea was to better the prisoners, not to break them’
    • ‘After months with no sales, his spirit was broken and he gave up.’
    • ‘While they were successful in obtaining Rich's resignation, they could not break his spirit.’
    • ‘She was going to prove he hadn't broken her spirit.’
    • ‘She had seen many things there that broke her spirit and took away her faith in humanity, but knew that there was still good left in the world.’
    • ‘You broke my heart much like you broke the spirits of your people.’
    • ‘But it stands to reason that if your spirit is broken by misery and the side effects of treatment, then you will not do well.’
    • ‘However you see the work, its implication is that the spirit cannot be broken.’
    • ‘There is little that life can throw at him which can break his spirit.’
    • ‘You've stolen his dignity, shattered his emotions and broken his spirit, how much more do you want?’
    • ‘And since I was working with the disabled before the accident, I knew what kind of a life was in store for me ahead, which broke my spirit.’
    • ‘Such privations by no means broke the spirit of the people.’
    • ‘I write this letter as a mother, a mother whose spirit is broken, a mother who has to keep her child in the house in fear of losing her.’
    • ‘When I look at her I just think that at some point her spirit was broken and then, well, this is what became of her.’
    • ‘These were trials that would have broken the spirit of most people.’
    • ‘They're breaking them, their spirit, their minds, their psyche.’
    • ‘If they thought that would break my spirit, they got it wrong.’
    • ‘The rest of us suffer while they try to break our spirits and brainwash us.’
    • ‘Never ridicule a woman - it breaks her spirit and cuts her efficiency.’
    • ‘Anne's spirit could not be broken.’
    • ‘They remember being kept desperately hungry all the time, as part of a ploy to break their spirits.’
    1. 4.1[no object](of a person's emotional strength or control) give way.
      ‘her self-control finally broke’
      • ‘The phone clicked back into place as Jackie crumpled onto the floor, her composure finally breaking.’
      • ‘Her control broke and she hit him hard across the face.’
      • ‘Once in his room, Tony's fragile control broke, tears quickly blinding him.’
      • ‘The words died on her tongue, and all of her well-trained control broke.’
      give way, collapse, crack, be overcome, give in, cave in, yield, crumple, go to pieces
      View synonyms
    2. 4.2Destroy the power of (a movement or organization)
      ‘strategies used to break the union’
      • ‘They know that this could break the movement and we are afraid that it will work.’
      • ‘Government indifference and racist violence did not break the movement - in fact it radicalised it.’
      • ‘True, he broke the power of the trade unions but the result was near total economic collapse.’
      • ‘It was also viewed by its architects as a way to break the power of the elite, who are still very much in control.’
      • ‘The bourgeoisie are agreed that the only solution is a dictatorship that crushes and breaks the workers' movement.’
      destroy, crush, smash, quash, defeat, vanquish, overcome, overpower, overwhelm, cripple, bring someone to their knees
      View synonyms
    3. 4.3Destroy the effectiveness of (a strike), typically by moving in other people to replace the striking workers.
      ‘a government threat to use the army to break the strike’
      • ‘The council is attempting to break the strike by opening three out of seven libraries with casual staff.’
      • ‘On January 3 management sent out more than 200 dismissal notices in an attempt to break the strike.’
      • ‘Clearly this was a crude attempt to break the strike.’
      • ‘A lot of friendships were broken through people breaking the strike.’
      • ‘During the strike workers condemned management appeals to private sector workers to break the strike.’
      • ‘He betrayed his former socialist beliefs by breaking a strike of railwaymen in 1910.’
      • ‘The company has turned to the state government and courts to help break the strike.’
      • ‘In an attempt to break the strike, the airlines flew in baggage-handling personnel from abroad.’
      • ‘Worse still, soldiers were used to break strikes: workers and peasants were set to fight one another in the clothes of striker and soldier.’
      • ‘Management attempted to use 40 workers brought over from Holland last week to break the strike.’
      • ‘Strikers were disgusted to hear that journalists were being paid £100 per day extra to break the strike.’
      • ‘A convoy of police cars escorted trucks and vans full of workers sent by other apple growers to break the strike.’
      • ‘The school management has drawn up plans to try to break Thursday's strike by bringing in supply teachers.’
      • ‘That night the cabinet rounded up the strike leaders and flooded Glasgow with tanks and trainloads of troops to break the strike.’
      • ‘In El Salvador riot police broke a medical workers strike by occupying clinics in February.’
      • ‘Workers established the picket in order to prevent the company breaking the strike with replacement drivers.’
      • ‘The union claims that management has begun recruiting casual workers to break the strike.’
      • ‘How dare you support a union that helped to break a strike?’
      • ‘It was also utilised to break strikes by workers agitating for better working conditions and wages.’
      • ‘The service drafted in prison officers to work in kitchens in an attempt to break the strike.’
  • 5[no object] Undergo a change or enter a new state, in particular.

    1. 5.1(of the weather) change suddenly, especially after a fine spell.
      ‘the weather broke and thunder rumbled through a leaden sky’
      • ‘The hot spell had broken and now the weather was bearable again.’
      • ‘Even so, I managed to do it, even as the first rains of the season broke across the South Bay.’
      • ‘Impatiently we wait for the weather to break, for we know all too well how much work needs to be done.’
      • ‘The rain breaks long enough for me to dash to the supermarket.’
      • ‘This great weather is sure to break soon so lets all enjoy it while it lasts.’
      • ‘Fearing a curse, the townspeople fled in terror as soon as the weather broke.’
      • ‘The weather broke on 3 September, and clouds of dust were turned into glutinous mud.’
      • ‘This drought broke emphatically in February 1973, with exceptional rainfall over South Australia and the eastern states.’
      • ‘Soon afterward, the drought broke and the area teemed once more with life.’
      • ‘The heatwave has broken, the temperature has dropped, the sun has clouded over and the pavements are wet.’
      • ‘This morning, in Winchester, the dry spell broke and there was rain.’
      • ‘The drought has broken again, just when everyone wondered if it ever would.’
      • ‘When the weather broke, a strong, cooling wind came up, and Dolly and I were much more comfortable than of late.’
      • ‘He said he was not worried about the weekend's sunny weather breaking as there was plenty of room to shelter from showers in the stands.’
      • ‘The main reason for the haste was the weather which could have broken at any time bringing all haulage work on the soft bog to an end.’
      • ‘If the drought has now broken, why are you predicting this food crisis will last until April?’
      • ‘The hot weather has definitely broken and it's jumpers before sunset, but only just before.’
      • ‘And in the meantime the drought has broken and the farmers are clamouring for seed so they can get a crop.’
      • ‘The heatwave broke and it was gorgeous running weather this morning.’
      • ‘That meant withholding some of the farmers' irrigation water and sending it downriver - at least until the drought broke.’
      change, undergo a change, alter, shift, metamorphose
      View synonyms
    2. 5.2(of a storm) begin violently.
      ‘when all were aboard, the storm broke’
      • ‘However, at that same moment, a thunderstorm broke loose around them.’
      • ‘A mild thunderstorm has just broken out over west London, minutes after I got home.’
      • ‘Looking down from the mouth of the pass, I could see now that a lot of our members wouldn't make it before the storm broke.’
      • ‘But just as the Queen was about to arrive in her carriage a thunderstorm broke, forcing everyone to run for cover.’
      • ‘The sudden thunderstorm broke at approximately 4.30 pm caused flooding of up to two feet in some areas.’
      • ‘As soon as they had left the field, the storm broke and there was torrential rain.’
      • ‘On the way to the airport, a colossal thunderstorm broke.’
      • ‘As he climbed into his campaign bus a thunderstorm broke over the city.’
      • ‘While we were dining in the hotel's restaurant the usual evening thunderstorm broke, along with a blinding downpour.’
      • ‘A huge thunderstorm broke over St. George's early this morning.’
      • ‘They left and soon after the storm broke.’
      • ‘The storm broke as she arrived at the house, and the sudden downpour soaked her between the taxi and the front door.’
      • ‘People walked by on the sidewalks, running errands, trying to get home before the storm broke.’
      • ‘On August 20 a terrific hurricane broke over the mountains.’
      • ‘During the night a storm broke, and the bungalow leaked badly.’
      • ‘A storm broke, sending them home early, but they got caught crossing a rapidly rising creek.’
      • ‘Whales were almost completely absent the day before a storm broke, and the numbers migrating slowly increased once it was over.’
      • ‘As I headed toward the forest, a tremendous thunderstorm broke.’
      • ‘The storm broke the next morning.’
      • ‘Just after I left the site a huge thunderstorm broke over Greensboro which continued through the dusk.’
    3. 5.3(of dawn or a day) begin as the sun rises.
      ‘dawn was just breaking’
      • ‘Dawn was breaking as Marie rose from her first restful night's sleep in two weeks.’
      • ‘Daylight began to break, as tired pastel rays of sunlight fell upon Anna's face.’
      • ‘Numerous teams of volunteers set off armed with litter-pickers and bags as dawn was breaking.’
      • ‘Dawn began to break as we approached Cape May, New Jersey, and soon the sun was up.’
      • ‘Dawn broke and weak light filtered over the horizon.’
      • ‘Seagulls from Cork harbour were flying overhead and the dawn was breaking.’
      • ‘I was woken by dawn breaking.’
      • ‘When dawn broke, he rose stiffly, and stretched his aching limbs.’
      • ‘As day broke, the eyes of news outlets were focused on New Orleans, the biggest city threatened by the storm and the city with the biggest potential for disaster.’
      • ‘Dawn was breaking, and the pale pink sunrise brushed its fingers of light over everything.’
      • ‘Dawn was a few hours away but when the day broke he knew his cover wouldn't last for long.’
      • ‘As day broke, the sun came out, and so did the insects.’
      • ‘Police cordoned off the area overnight and as dawn broke, forensic investigations began at the crime scene.’
      • ‘Once I witnessed the dawn breaking as I went out to check a sickly lamb.’
      • ‘The journey down wasn't too bad and I only started to notice the traffic as I crossed the Severn Bridge as dawn was breaking.’
      • ‘When dawn began to break, I guarded the controls and let my pilot continue with the approach.’
      • ‘Americans will be at their desks on Christmas Eve and back, as ever, when dawn breaks on Boxing Day.’
      • ‘When day broke, the summer dawn could not penetrate the leaden gloom above the city.’
      • ‘By the time dawn broke over the notorious stretch of the Lancashire coast any chance of survival had ebbed away for those still out at sea.’
      • ‘Birds started singing because they thought dawn had broken.’
      dawn, begin, start, come into being, come forth, emerge, appear
      View synonyms
    4. 5.4(of clouds) move apart and begin to disperse.
      ‘on the seventh of September the clouds broke for the first time’
      • ‘It rained and snowed the whole next day, but as night set in, the clouds began to break.’
      • ‘In all the time we've lived here, not once has the cloud cover broken.’
      • ‘At last, below him the clouds broke and he could see where he came from.’
      • ‘The clouds are breaking and it's time for me to go flying.’
      • ‘The clouds broke over the vast ranch lands of the Wet Valley.’
      • ‘The clouds had broken and a corner of blue sky was peeping out towards the west.’
      • ‘However at 3:15 pm the clouds finally broke and he was allowed half an hour of uninterrupted viewing before sunset.’
      • ‘These build and swell into clouds, suddenly breaking apart and dispersing unexpectedly.’
      • ‘In the early afternoon, the clouds broke and the sun blazed.’
      • ‘Every now and then the fog would break for a moment, exposing the mountain range looming in the distance.’
      • ‘As we talked, the clouds started to break for the first time.’
      • ‘But when Ronnie came forward, the clouds broke and the sun came out.’
      • ‘The clouds broke apart and never dropped their rain.’
      • ‘Despite my earlier reluctance to face the wintry conditions, it was curiously exhilarating to battle through the snowdrifts and clouds and arrive by the summit just as the clouds broke.’
      • ‘The clouds broke, and the fair moon shone through.’
      • ‘The rain had stopped and the clouds broke to let a Sunday afternoon sun out.’
      • ‘It was a full moon and we were probably spotted when the clouds broke.’
      • ‘Once the fog broke and he could see the harbor stretching out in front of him he turned left and peered into the windows of the first bar he came upon.’
      • ‘The grey, looming clouds began to break apart and the blue sky of winter slowly began to show.’
      • ‘Glancing through the window he saw the cloud breaking and above he could make out the faint glimmer of stars.’
    5. 5.5(of waves) curl over and dissolve into foam.
      ‘the Caribbean sea was breaking gently on the shore’
      • ‘As each wave breaks over the sand, it brings in a fresh cargo of wriggling fish to the shore.’
      • ‘Standing on the cliff, you see the waves breaking at the shore down below.’
      • ‘The image most people have of a tsunami is a large, steep wave breaking on the shore.’
      • ‘Waves broke against the dark rocks to her left, and foamed and swirled like a jacuzzi.’
      • ‘In creative visualization, the meditator forms a mental picture that conveys relaxation, such as waves breaking gently on the sand.’
      • ‘Even in calm seas, the waves breaking over a reef are dangerous.’
      • ‘His pace was brisk and he did not seem to appreciate the music of the sea waves breaking against the parapet.’
      • ‘We were standing near the beach watching the embers of someone else's fire and listening to waves break on the shingle.’
      • ‘The waves break on the rocky shoreline as the tide comes in.’
      • ‘The wave breaks over my head, but I'm still upright.’
      • ‘The beach is wide and large and the waves break far out.’
      • ‘It is void of any traffic at this hour, with - the waves out there have begun to break further and further out.’
      • ‘Waves broke constantly over the deck, washing whole groups of terrified passengers overboard.’
      • ‘These waves break far from the shore, and the surf gently rolls over the front of the wave.’
      • ‘Turning his face towards the sea, he watched the low waves breaking on the sea wall.’
      • ‘They could see huge waves breaking over the main harbour and tossing ships about like tiny corks.’
      • ‘It is a bit windy but the waves are breaking nicely.’
      • ‘It's like going out into the sea and letting the waves break over you.’
      • ‘The waves sparkled as they broke against the sea wall.’
      • ‘We were told that in the very worst weather, the waves broke over the dunes and splashed the windows.’
      crash, dash, beat, pound, lash
      View synonyms
    6. 5.6(of a person's voice) falter and change tone, due to emotion.
      ‘her voice broke as she relived the experience’
      • ‘Her voice broke despairingly, as the depression of the last few days threatened to overwhelm her again.’
      • ‘His voice broke slightly as he said this and he cleared his throat.’
      • ‘As she looked at her husband, her voice broke and the tears came.’
      • ‘‘It's all right, I forgive you… I forgive you,’ he said, his voice breaking.’
      • ‘Her voice trembled and broke at times, but she consistently looked upon Angie's face with eagerness.’
      • ‘At this, her voice broke, and tears streamed down her face.’
      • ‘Her voice broke and she struggled to get it back.’
      • ‘She'd called me up, her voice breaking and shaking, I could tell she was hurt.’
      • ‘Her voice broke and she buried her face in her hands, the memories that seemed to have been lost for some time finally made themselves known in her mind.’
      • ‘Her voice broke as she said this, and she blinked.’
      • ‘At that point her voice broke and her emotions took control.’
      • ‘‘It's all right, sweetheart,’ he murmured, his voice breaking slightly as his own eyes filled up with tears.’
      • ‘Here, my voice broke as I let my emotions through for the first time in a year.’
      • ‘Mary's voice broke and she rested her forehead against her hands again.’
      • ‘His voice broke and he put his face in his hands and sobbed uncontrollably.’
      • ‘Rebecca's voice broke and her sobs took place of her voice.’
      • ‘His voice broke as he fought back emotions to tell an Old Bailey jury of the boy's last words.’
      • ‘Her mother's voice broke helplessly, and she blinked rapidly, pulling her daughter in for a tight embrace.’
      • ‘Her voice broke and she looked away angrily as tears filled her eyes.’
      • ‘Alex's voice broke and his hand's shook as he stood up.’
      falter, quaver, quiver, tremble, shake
      View synonyms
    7. 5.7(of a boy's voice) change in tone and register at puberty.
      ‘after his voice broke, he left the choir’
      • ‘There, especially after his voice broke and shattered his hopes of a singing career, he knocked on every door he could find in a bid to get powerful patrons.’
      • ‘He turned professional at the age of 12 but had to ‘retire’ when his voice broke at 16.’
      • ‘What I didn't reckon on was that this hormonal upheaval was also going to result in my voice breaking.’
      • ‘He was now 14, and his voice was breaking.’
      • ‘And trust me, even now that his voice has broken he's still capable of making busy note runs sound simple and gorgeous.’
    8. 5.8Phonetics (of a vowel) develop into a diphthong, under the influence of an adjacent sound.
      • ‘There is a considerable variation in breaking between different dialects and different generations of speakers.’
      • ‘In many (but not all) accents of English, a similar breaking happens to tense vowels before l.’
      • ‘Breaking of a short vowel gives a short diphthong.’
    9. 5.9(of prices on the stock exchange) fall sharply.
      • ‘If price breaks above the high, a bullish bias is adopted.’
      • ‘What traders want to confirm is that the price is indeed falling and will break back through the upper trendline.’
      • ‘The latest bear market is now in its ninth week, while the Dow has broken well below its post-11 September trough.’
      • ‘If there is enough resistance to stop prices from breaking above this line, do not enter long positions.’
  • 6[no object] (of news or a scandal) suddenly become public.

    ‘since the news broke I've received thousands of wonderful letters’
    • ‘That morning a story had broken in the papers that made the former Premier the journalistic prey of the day.’
    • ‘After the story broke, leading papers including the New York Times picked it up.’
    • ‘When the news broke on Wednesday, the Treasury took refuge in the fact that it was budget day to excuse the fact that it had nothing to say.’
    • ‘‘It's amazing that until this news broke there was no talk about the Olympic Games,’ he said.’
    • ‘Anyone who was around at that time but not directly involved in the madness can remember where they were and what they were doing when the shocking news broke.’
    • ‘A federal investigator was on campus within 48 hours after news broke about the scandal.’
    • ‘Once the news broke, emails and phone calls started pouring in from well-wishers.’
    • ‘The news broke that London would host the Olympic Games.’
    • ‘Indeed, the Presidential Palace has remained notably tight-lipped since the scandal broke.’
    • ‘Since news of the scandal broke, the company has been forced to fire two of its executives and to demand the resignation of its chairman.’
    • ‘I am angrier today than I was when this scandal broke.’
    • ‘When news of the riots broke, there was obviously significant coverage given to the story by UK broadcast media.’
    • ‘Yet from the moment the story broke every paper seems to be finding multiple sources who are willing to talk freely about minute details of the case.’
    • ‘News of the latest scandal broke on Sunday, just weeks after South Africa won the right to stage the 2010 soccer World Cup.’
    • ‘At home in Harrogate, Leon's mother watched as news of the disaster broke, knowing of her son's plan to dive on Boxing Day.’
    • ‘Members of the club's senior team were on route to Athenry for the match when news of the tragedy broke.’
    • ‘Later, when the tragic news broke, we agreed to put on the fundraising event.’
    • ‘He is said to have been regularly in tears since news of the scandal broke.’
    • ‘Some of the women were released after the scandal broke.’
    • ‘When the revelations regarding his alleged misconduct broke, the paper clearly felt itself under immense pressure.’
    erupt, burst out, break out
    View synonyms
    1. 6.1[with object]Make bad news known to (someone)
      ‘he was trying to break the terrible news gently to his father’
      • ‘It was only then that Elaine broke the news to her parents and her sisters and brothers.’
      • ‘When the chaps emerged from their meeting, I broke the news to them.’
      • ‘When we broke the news to her mother, she said her daughter would never do something like that.’
      • ‘He was devastated when a doctor first broke the news to him.’
      • ‘Managers broke the news to staff on Monday afternoon, hours after drivers were ordered not to deliver goods until cash on previous orders was collected.’
      • ‘Then when the time was right, we broke the news to them, and carefully monitored the response over several days.’
      • ‘She broke the news to them last Monday in a meeting with the entire team.’
      • ‘Police broke the news to her father and mother today.’
      • ‘But later that evening the police came and broke the bad news to him, he said.’
      • ‘One day his brother came and broke the news to her, but it took a few days to sink in.’
      • ‘Alan eventually broke the news to her over a cup of coffee when they got home.’
      • ‘I was just about to break the terrible news to her when her cat strolled casually around the corner of the house.’
      • ‘Referring to fatal accidents Chief Supt Carey added: ‘I have dealt with several fatal accidents and nobody can imagine what it is like having to break such terrible news to a family.’’
      • ‘Bosses broke the news to workers at a meeting for all 500 employees last night.’
      • ‘Her husband broke the news to her, and the couple celebrated by putting the kettle on and sitting down with a cup of tea.’
      • ‘Anyhow, I broke the news to him in a very compassionate way, and gave him whatever counselling I could.’
      • ‘In an interview, she said doctors broke the news to them last week that their two-month-old tot Harvey had been born with a rare condition that means he will face a lifetime of darkness.’
      • ‘The board's chief executive broke the news to staff in on Tuesday morning.’
      • ‘When he returned to Germany for the Christmas holiday, he broke the news to her that he had been asked to stay for another two-and-a-half years.’
      • ‘She said it had been very emotional when they broke the news to residents on Tuesday.’
      reveal, disclose, divulge, let out
      View synonyms
  • 7[no object, with adverbial] (chiefly of an attacking player or team, or of a military force) make a rush or dash in a particular direction.

    ‘Mitchell won possession and broke quickly, allowing Hughes to score’
    • ‘They broke quickly but Morgan's drive rattled the post.’
    • ‘The outlet player passes to a lane player who is breaking to the basket, and makes a lay-up.’
    • ‘He then broke and off-loaded to Moran to go in under the posts.’
    • ‘Neville ran up and down the wing like a teenager, always giving an option and ready to break past the full-back.’
    • ‘Three riders broke clear on the fifth lap of the second event.’
    • ‘He broke forwards again to force home the rebound.’
    • ‘He broke from the halfway line but held onto the ball too long with support on hand.’
    • ‘Six riders broke from a lead group of 15 and worked well together to maintain a healthy advantage going into the run.’
    • ‘Two riders broke clear with a 20 second lead.’
    • ‘A couple of minutes later and the home side broke quickly from a free-kick into their own box.’
    • ‘Steeton proved to be a very good counter attacking team and were at their most dangerous when breaking from their own penalty area.’
    • ‘Then Campbell scored a last-minute winner that wasn't allowed and was wheeling away in celebration when they broke upfield.’
    • ‘They broke quickly after clearing a corner.’
    • ‘From the start the pace was on with four competitors breaking clear of the pack and setting a blistering pace.’
    • ‘They win it back and again try to break quickly.’
    • ‘This inspirational player broke round the blind side and was stopped just short of the try line.’
    • ‘She broke from deep down the right wing and shot wide.’
    • ‘The home side broke quickly from defence and took the lead in the 33rd minute.’
    • ‘He broke clear to score his 27th goal of the season and wrap up the win.’
    • ‘Full back Tony Simpson broke well down the right wing, and passed inside to Michael Carr.’
    1. 7.1(of a bowled cricket ball) change direction on bouncing, due to spin.
      • ‘This is done by twisting the wrist at the moment of delivery so that the ball breaks when it strikes with the pitch.’
      • ‘How much the ball breaks will often depend on the kind of pitch it is.’
      • ‘Will there emerge a spinner who breaks the ball so sharply that he needs no fielders on one side of the wicket?’
    2. 7.2(of a ball) rebound unpredictably.
      ‘the ball broke to Craig but his shot rebounded from the post’
      • ‘The ball broke among a swarm of backs and forwards.’
      • ‘He finished in style when the ball broke to him.’
      • ‘The ball broke to him on the right of the box.’
      • ‘The ball breaks to Owen on the left of the Argentinian box.’
      • ‘From a Korean free-kick on the right, the ball breaks to Lee on the edge of the box.’


  • 1An interruption of continuity or uniformity.

    ‘the magazine has been published without a break since 1950’
    • ‘You may be heading for mountains or beaches or an amusement park but you want to have a break from the ordinary grind of life.’
    • ‘To provide a break from their daily routine, they are taken for a visit to the zoo, park, coconut farms and theme parks.’
    • ‘After a three-year break they decided to put this popular event back on the track!’
    • ‘I started working in 1959 at the age of 16 and have done so continuously without a break.’
    • ‘After a break of several months, he tried to ride a bike again and realised how unfit he was.’
    • ‘Because of their short durations, the motor tests were not interrupted by breaks.’
    • ‘Repaving work that has so far cost £2.2m is restarting following a break over the Christmas period.’
    • ‘She was soon put under house arrest, where she has remained, with a few breaks, ever since.’
    • ‘It will be the 35th anniversary of the event being revived after a break of several years.’
    • ‘I had worked on the story over a period of several months with several long breaks.’
    • ‘One table had an older family, taking a break from cooking at home.’
    • ‘As a break from my habitual states of enthusiasm, excitement, anger or inertia, I decided to attempt an intellectual exercise.’
    • ‘It can be a positive thing - adrenaline helps us get things done - but not if it continues without a break.’
    • ‘It also gives people a break from the grinding chores of daily life.’
    • ‘He was educated in local schools with intermittent breaks.’
    • ‘It's just never been easy, and I've been bound to this child for six months without any break.’
    • ‘This is an ideal way to spend a day with a friend, a family member or indeed with someone who would just appreciate a break from routine.’
    • ‘And the striker will be particularly keen to avoid any breaks from first team action.’
    • ‘The diesel service had the advantage of speedier and more frequent runs, and allowed running for long periods without immediate breaks for servicing.’
    • ‘For some guys, it's also a nice break from having to take the lead.’
    interruption, interval, gap, hiatus, lapse of time, lacuna
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1An act of separating oneself from a pre-existing state of affairs.
      ‘a break with the past’
      • ‘All in all, his break from his instrumental past proves moving and well judged.’
      • ‘This represented a break with 1900 years of complete Christian consensus.’
      • ‘In a break with tradition, the Welsh Rugby Union has decided to make tickets for Six Nations matches available to the general public via their internet site.’
      • ‘Since this break from the rules and formalities of European culture, Americans have never looked back.’
      • ‘We may need to make a break with the past and with past evidence.’
      • ‘The filmmakers were making a break from the ironclad Soviet cinematic ideology.’
    2. 1.2A change in the weather.
      ‘a week or so may pass without a break in the weather’
      • ‘Everywhere, the streets were filled with people, enjoying — at last — a break in the rain.’
      • ‘After two very wet months will we get a break in the bad weather?’
      • ‘The weather remained gloomy, with small breaks of sunshine.’
      • ‘After a week of waiting, there was a break in the weather.’
      change, alteration, variation
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3[with modifier]A change of line, paragraph, or page.
      ‘dotted lines on the screen show page breaks’
      • ‘Her line breaks are uniquely hers, beautifully jolting without any winking self-congratulation.’
      • ‘A concise and true statement for a book largely filled with poems that read more like essays with poetic line breaks.’
      • ‘Rather than slow down the reading pace, the sound shape of the poem intensifies the oral density of each line, somehow nearly erasing the line breaks.’
      • ‘In particular, he had to decide how to sequence the stories and ads on any given page, and when to put in line breaks.’
      • ‘The line length gives some formatting problems, requiring the use of a small typeface if there are to be no unplanned line breaks.’
      • ‘The column is a little hard to read since the Times website has inexplicably removed all the paragraph breaks, but it's worth plowing through anyway.’
      • ‘WordPerfect allows you to mark a block of text as not permitted to be interrupted by a page break.’
      • ‘Paragraph breaks have been inserted for clarity’
      • ‘It should be in a very readable state, with page breaks and titles for each page.’
      • ‘They also need to sort out the length of their paragraphs and proof reading generally, this article in particular gave me a migraine with its lack of line breaks.’
      • ‘Sorry if my transitions between page breaks aren't very orderly.’
      • ‘We removed the spaces between words and inserted arbitrary line breaks.’
      • ‘He has made a fairly close, but not exact, approximation of page breaks, and preserved the numbering system fairly well.’
      • ‘Place the text description first, followed by a line break, and then the select menu.’
      • ‘His prose, rich in dialect and at times fragmented into poetic line breaks, is well worth the time required to fully comprehend its rhythms.’
      • ‘Blank verse like this is like tennis without the net; it is prose with line breaks.’
      • ‘The ‘preview’ mode can't cope with line breaks; however, line breaks do appear correctly after the comment has been published.’
      • ‘How many page breaks can exist in a chapter?’
      • ‘When it works, line breaks will be changed into paragraphs, and links will be allowed in comments.’
      • ‘As well as the titles I have cut out a couple of line breaks, it's an attempt to make it all look a little better, I'll reserve judgement for now, things could change back.’
    4. 1.4A change of tone in a person's voice due to emotion.
      ‘there was a break in her voice now’
      • ‘I picked up on the urgency in her voice, detecting emotional breaks.’
      • ‘There was a break in her voice as if she were going to burst out crying.’
      • ‘There was a break in his voice when he bade farewell to the reporters.’
    5. 1.5An interruption in an electric circuit.
      • ‘A dead light-bulb is a break in the circuit, so that will also stop the current.’
      • ‘The break in the electric circuit had not been closed by pressure on the trip wire.’
      • ‘A switch is a break in the circuit that stops the electrons from flowing.’
    6. 1.6Tennis The winning of a game against an opponent's serve.
      • ‘He is a model of calmness on court in the third set and secures the crucial break of serve in game seven’
      • ‘The final set was decided by a single break of serve in the ninth game, achieved with a spectacular running forehand down the line.’
      • ‘The 22-year-old crawled back to 3-4 with a service break in the seventh game.’
      • ‘She managed to pull off a decisive break of serve in the 11th game, and kept her nerves cool to get the job done in the next one.’
      • ‘Both men refused to yield in a dead-level opening set completed without a single break of serve.’
  • 2A pause in work or during an activity or event.

    ‘I need a break from mental activity’
    ‘those returning to work after a career break’
    ‘a coffee break’
    • ‘Usually I read the papers on line at lunch break, and read the print version in the pub after work.’
    • ‘Students come here to eat, drink and take a break from school work.’
    • ‘Having set up the venue themselves, they left for a break but on their return found the hall locked again.’
    • ‘At the end of the day the High Court had to take into account the fact that teachers need a break too.’
    • ‘When I take a break from studying and go online, I'm still doing something stimulating.’
    • ‘The Maltese weather and lifestyle also call for afternoon breaks, when shop owners close and the island people rest.’
    • ‘The clientele were predominantly student-types and twentysomethings, some working, others just taking a break.’
    • ‘This enables more efficient scheduling of breaks, meetings and training sessions, further optimizing agents' schedules.’
    • ‘Taking a break from signing autographs, he seemed pleased with the way things had gone.’
    • ‘We usually manage to get through another few cups as the day goes on, as a boost for flagging energy levels, perhaps, or an excuse to take a break from work.’
    • ‘Advise the patient to minimise time spent with flexed or extended wrists and to take frequent breaks.’
    • ‘Stopping staff having a quick surf on the Web will probably only result in more chatting around the company coffee machine or extended loo breaks.’
    • ‘When you see a colleague struggling, walk him to the vending machine for a break.’
    • ‘Doing the shopping could be as easy as picking up an order that you mailed ahead during a lunch break.’
    • ‘Stressed-out homemakers can now take a break and leave the iron in the closet.’
    • ‘On Saturday morning, a woman visits the family home for about four hours in order to give the parents a brief break.’
    • ‘I needed a break from studying.’
    • ‘And I really find that I put so much into it when I am painting that I have to take a break from it.’
    • ‘Many parents worry that their kids won't return to their studies after taking a break from them.’
    • ‘The students have been urged to take a break from revision.’
    rest, respite, interval, breathing space, lull, recess
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1British An interval during the school day.
      ‘the bell went for break’
      • ‘The ten-year-old has been selling tickets to her classmates during her lunch break at St Anne Line school in Wickhay, Basildon.’
      • ‘A moment later, the break bell rang.’
      • ‘Just as she began to mull over this new development, the bell rang for first break.’
      • ‘I think I had wept all the tears out of me during second period and break and lunch.’
      • ‘Her stomach was full of butterflies, because first period was about to let out for break.’
      • ‘I looked for you every chance I got, and saw you at break after second period.’
      • ‘Infant teachers who read it aloud in class were begged to continue when the bell rang for break.’
      • ‘The one thing she didn't like about being a teacher was grading papers over break.’
      • ‘The bell rang for break time, it seemed, in record time this morning.’
    2. 2.2A short holiday.
      ‘a weekend break in the Cotswolds’
      • ‘She said they feared Chinese students going home for the Easter break could become infected and pass on the virus when they returned to college.’
      • ‘It was a relaxing break and well needed respite for both of us.’
      • ‘We look forward to organising similar activities during the summer break.’
      • ‘If you're planning a short weekend break to Amsterdam, there are a lot of places you shouldn't miss.’
      • ‘While the number of Irish holidaymakers enjoying short breaks or full-week stays in the region was up, there was a drop-off in visitors from abroad.’
      • ‘Cities Direct promises a uniquely different time with breaks to Belgium.’
      • ‘So the summer break seemed an ideal opportunity to visit the outlaws, my partner's parents, and brush up on the German.’
      • ‘It's time to consider some time off and we're thinking about a short break to Germany.’
      • ‘He is delighted to be back, but he did enjoy his break very much, and the weather suited him very well.’
      • ‘He also stressed that the bad weather might afford people the opportunity to avail of cheap breaks within the region.’
      • ‘All I plan to do is enjoy my summer break and wait and see what happens.’
      • ‘Will people want to honour her, as they did then, or will the extended bank holiday designated for this purpose simply pass off as a pleasant break?’
      • ‘Then on Monday schools in the Paris region returned from their Easter break, and young students marched out of classes in their tens of thousands.’
      • ‘I know that people travel from far and wide to enjoy short breaks and long holidays in our beautiful and historic city.’
      • ‘They have put together three different kinds of good-value breaks.’
      • ‘People are taking shorter holidays so city breaks are more popular.’
      • ‘The couple went on a break to Paris in September 2002, but split up within a fortnight of their return, jurors heard.’
      • ‘With the recent weather conditions and the Christmas break they have had a well earned rest.’
      • ‘Bryan, who is son of Michael and Carmel Reidy, went to New York in the early 1980s on a summer break from college.’
      • ‘Weekend breaks are available for about £160 for a double room for two nights.’
      holiday, time off, period of leave
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3A short solo or instrumental passage in jazz or popular music.
      • ‘She is a fine pianist, straddling jazz, pop and classical styles, and the instrumental breaks on her debut album are solid.’
      • ‘Some of the songs are also too long and would benefit from shorter instrumental breaks.’
      • ‘Also included is some of the music whose breaks and bridges formed the basis for this new music.’
      • ‘Tracks on the album tend to feature brief lyric verses interspersed with longer instrumental breaks.’
      • ‘The song, with the addition of a long instrumental solo break, drove the lyrical quality of the song to the heart.’
    4. 2.4Dance music featuring breakbeats.
  • 3A gap or opening.

    ‘the track bends left through a break in the hedge’
    ‘he stopped to wait for a break in the traffic’
    • ‘The saplings can survive for decades in the shade, waiting for a break in the canopy and a chance to join their relatives in the sunlight.’
    • ‘On the opposite shore, I could make out a small railway bridge through a break in the trees.’
    • ‘Eventually there came a break in the cloud below and I spotted a reservoir which I thought I recognized from a previous flight.’
    • ‘We are taught from a young age to look both ways and to wait for a break in the traffic before crossing a street.’
    • ‘Towards the western end of the ramparts there is an obvious break where a path leads through rocky portals to gain a grassy bealach.’
    • ‘A break in the crowd gave me a full view of her as she stepped briskly down the steps, with her small square leather bag in her hand.’
    gap, opening, space, hole, breach, chink, crack, fissure, cleft, rift, chasm
    View synonyms
  • 4An instance of breaking something, or the point where something is broken.

    ‘he was stretchered off with a break to the leg’
    • ‘The seven breaks to his leg have been pinned and wired and his leg fitted is with a metal frame.’
    • ‘Railroad officials plan to replace eight miles of track after test results Thursday showed internal cracks and breaks not apparent by visual inspection.’
    • ‘Troops demonstrated their first aid skills, showing Prince Charles how they have been learning to cope with dislocations and breaks.’
    • ‘I was looking for breaks and bleeding, but there weren't any.’
    • ‘He is set to miss the rest of the season after sustaining a serious break to his right leg.’
    • ‘He thought he had only sprained an ankle but doctors at a local clinic took several x-rays and told him he had suffered a break.’
    • ‘Over time, the area of detachment increases as more fluid passes through the retinal break.’
    • ‘I could see Rachel had severe breaks to both her legs and my wife was lying motionless.’
    • ‘A bone break or crack occurs when a force deforms the bone beyond its normal elastic limit.’
    • ‘In severe breaks, the broken bone may be poking through the skin.’
    • ‘The bird had a fractured leg where breaks commonly occur in leg trap injuries.’
    • ‘He sustained a double break to his leg.’
    • ‘He suffered several breaks on both feet and legs, hips, pelvis and left arm.’
    • ‘The City sent out a crew to repair the break, and a temporary patch was applied to the hole.’
    • ‘After a bone fracture, new bone cells fill the gap and repair the break.’
    • ‘For instance, if the break is clean and not frayed, he knows the frame has been knocked off the wall.’
    • ‘Thus, these pipes need frequent examination in case of sudden breaks.’
    • ‘He knew that the pain in the shoulder and arm meant at least sprains, if not dislocations and breaks.’
    • ‘Use an electric shaver instead of a razor to prevent breaks or cuts in your skin.’
    • ‘She has been in intensive care at the hospital ever since, suffering horrendous breaks to her left leg, pelvis, ribs and shoulder.’
  • 5A rush or dash in a particular direction, especially by an attacking player or team.

    ‘Norwich scored on a rare break with 11 minutes left’
    • ‘The scrum-half made several telling breaks to earn the Man-of-the-Match award.’
    • ‘He made a fine break but fumbled the pass.’
    • ‘A single striker was aided by breaks from the wide players whenever they dared.’
    • ‘In the first half he made several breaks to launch English attacks.’
    • ‘He finished off a fine break by Hodgson to score at the posts and Hodgson added the conversion.’
    • ‘It would open up the ice for a big play, the long pass and a quick break.’
    • ‘Although Newcastle dominated much of the action, early breaks by second row Chris Jones provided a hint of what might be to come later.’
    • ‘On eleven minutes, prop Alistair Livesey plunged over from a break by number eight Andy Monighan, converted by Jones.’
    • ‘For the Cougar faithful he brought back memories of Martin Wood, a player capable of making vital breaks, drawing the defence and creating space for his team mates to exploit.’
    • ‘They were already showing signs of taking control, with flowing passes and rapid breaks from midfield.’
    • ‘The fly half made the break, but his pass was ruled forward.’
    • ‘By simply pushing the pace of the game, a faster team can create enough breaks to change the outcome of a game.’
    • ‘He made a superb break only for the final pass to go astray.’
    • ‘A fine break by the full back saw him brought down illegally when a certain try for the visitors looked on.’
    • ‘He missed a simple looking penalty before making the break that put his team on the attack.’
    • ‘Inside the first three minutes of the second half Arsenal had the lead from one of their fine breaks.’
    • ‘They looked certain to score again when he made a swift break but the final pass went into touch.’
    • ‘He made a break and passed the ball inside.’
    • ‘They combined as early as the third minute, a break by the scrum half putting Dixon through a gap to score.’
    • ‘Jones converted, and then raced clear to the corner following a fine break by Judge.’
    1. 5.1informal An escape, typically from prison.
      • ‘When local residents expressed concern after the prison break, the company simply shrugged it off.’
      • ‘A dispatcher at the County Jail foiled an attempted break by as many as five men from the fourth-floor maximum security cell block.’
      • ‘One American soldier was injured in the attempted prison break.’
      • ‘He said it was possible that weapons used in the prison break could have been introduced to the property through the gaping fence.’
      • ‘Up to this point, two-thirds of the way in, the focus of the film was the actual prison break.’
    2. 5.2Cricket A change in the direction of a bowled ball on bouncing.
  • 6informal An opportunity or chance, especially one leading to professional success.

    ‘he got his break as an entertainer on a TV music hall show’
    • ‘For a young person like Jane, getting a break - an opportunity to prove her talent - is a huge issue.’
    • ‘After attending workshops with the dancers for many months, he finally got his break.’
    • ‘He is a former policeman who got his first breaks in business through contracts with the police and military.’
    • ‘Those who pass out from her academy will be guaranteed an acting break.’
    • ‘It's an unconventional way of working which seems to have brought him plenty of acclaim at the same time as giving other artists their breaks.’
    • ‘My break came in the late 1960s, when I was a senior project manager at JC Penney.’
    • ‘He got his break in 1944 with When Strangers Marry, a film noir and eventually a cult classic.’
    • ‘The story that got me my break was published in an anthology by Vintage.’
    • ‘There were stints as a trainee barman, as a telegram boy, and in a men's clothes shop before he got his break at 17.’
    • ‘The aspiring singer-dancer-actor got his break as a replacement in Hair.’
    opportunity, stroke of luck, chance, opening, foot in the door
    View synonyms
  • 7Billiards
    A consecutive series of successful shots, scoring a specified number of points.

    ‘a break of 83 put him in front for the first time’
    • ‘The world champion rattled in three century breaks to overcome the Welshman, including a 142 clearance in frame seven.’
    • ‘Equally, rather than widen pockets and make it easier for players to shoot consistently higher breaks, snooker's governing body have actually done the opposite.’
    • ‘The Scot said he was frustrated by his inconsistency despite a comprehensive win and two 130-plus breaks.’
    • ‘He managed to knock in two century breaks - and a 62 for good measure - and was still outscored by his opponent.’
    • ‘After scoring a break of 118 in the opening frame yesterday, he lost the next on black.’
    1. 7.1A player's turn to make the opening shot of a game.
      ‘whose break is it?’
      • ‘He tied the match anew at 7-7, but failed to pocket on his break in the 15th rack.’
      • ‘If you play it for a few hours, and if you develop some consistency in your break, your scores will improve greatly.’
  • 8A bud or shoot sprouting from a stem.

    • ‘The length of bare stem (from soil level to the first break on the stem) will determine the kind of plant that you have.’
    • ‘At the base you may also have a bud that is known as the break bud.’
    • ‘The dormant oil is usually defined as a heavier weight oil applied in spring prior to bud break or in the fall after leaf drop.’


  • break one's back

    • Put great effort into achieving something.

      ‘as soon as we finished I'd break my back to get home to her’
      • ‘I break my back for pedagogy and love of my subject!’
      • ‘Ain't it good enough that I'm out here breaking my back for them?’
      • ‘Yesterday, when I was being smeared and pelted with snow while breaking my back, my neighbor cleared his tiny, non corner walk in about 3 minutes and then went back inside.’
      • ‘I have no desire to break my back on the wheels of capitalism, or prostrate myself before it.’
      • ‘‘It really will not break your back if you smile around this place,’ Watts told the group.’
      • ‘We have more, varied, fresher and cheaper food than ever before - and nobody has to break their back on the land to get it to us.’
      • ‘‘All it costs is €30 a month and you get staff who will break their back for you in terms of loyalty,’ he said.’
  • break the back of

    • 1Accomplish the main or hardest part of (a task)

      ‘we've broken the back of the problem’
      • ‘My belief would be that three or four weeks of intensive work would break the back of it and make sure that people started to think about things differently.’
      • ‘They broke the back of the task by adding 81 runs in 16 overs for the first wicket.’
      • ‘The grants from broke the back of the funding but raising the rest was still a real challenge.’
      • ‘Mel is going to do lots of swimming and an hour's yoga every day, and I'm hoping to break the back of my music essay if the pool and the wine permit.’
      • ‘They broke the back of their task with an opening stand of 111 in only 18 overs.’
      1. 1.1Overwhelm or defeat.
        ‘I thought we really had broken the back of inflation’
        • ‘Throwing money at the defense industry broke the back of the Soviet Union and ended the cold war.’
        • ‘If the Government truly is serious about breaking the back of organised crime in Bulgaria, several steps could be taken.’
        • ‘He was the man credited with breaking the back of atheistic communism throughout Europe.’
        • ‘This practice will eventually break the back of the middle class.’
        • ‘Several films gave the impression that the D-Day landings broke the back of the German army and it was all over after then, which was wrong, of course.’
        • ‘The resistance to the war at home broke the back of the government.’
        • ‘But perhaps, given earlier exaggerated claims to break the back of illiteracy within five years, a more cautious approach may be advisable.’
        • ‘And soaring oil prices would be the final straw that broke the back of the economy.’
        • ‘The wars over the Fair Housing Act were vicious and essentially broke the back of the civil rights consensus in the Democratic party.’
        • ‘His historic march to the sea was the campaign that broke the back of the Confederacy.’
  • break the bank

    • 1(in gambling) win more money than is held by the bank.

      ‘winning the pools was the equivalent of breaking the bank at Monte Carlo’
      • ‘On the drive home, I kept chuckling and whistling, ‘He's the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’!’
      • ‘He breaks the bank, but when he offers Paulina the money to buy off the marquis, she is ashamed and hurls it back at him in disgust.’
      1. 1.1informal [usually with negative]Cost more than one can afford.
        ‘at £30, the shirts won't break the bank’
        • ‘One might argue that some of the existing members just wouldn't be able to afford it but would £1 per week really break the bank?’
        • ‘You could still afford an exclusive bridal service without breaking the bank!’
        • ‘Four important players were making next to nothing, allowing the team to win without breaking the bank.’
        • ‘The cost of fitted shelves and units can break the bank.’
        • ‘However, a week in the fjords in summer or cross-country skiing in winter doesn't have to break the bank, and many tour operators offer affordable packages.’
  • break bread

    • 1Celebrate the Eucharist.

      ‘as we gathered to break bread, a sense of thanksgiving ran through us’
      • ‘I didn't earn the right to preach, to break bread at the table of Christ, to walk beside people while they pass through the rough places.’
      • ‘Accepting the freedom of this way and sharing it in life together for the sake of the whole world, we find that our random acts of nutrition have been transformed into the Christian practice of breaking bread.’
      • ‘It's a lot easier to imagine him eating a working lunch in a corporate boardroom than breaking bread at a prayer breakfast with a bunch of Christian Dominionists.’
      • ‘Later, however, precise details would be given: namely, that this confession would take place when the community gathered on each Lord's day to break bread and celebrate the Eucharist.’
      • ‘He gave them a new commandment: break bread together in his memory, and love each other.’
      • ‘Jesus broke bread and said it would represent his body.’
      • ‘Then we broke bread and fed each other from God's table.’
      • ‘The Christian practice of breaking bread acknowledges the table - at home, at work, at school, at church - as a place not only for food but also for speech.’
      • ‘Rather than ceasing to baptize or break bread, Lewis suggests an attitude of repentance because of the lack of unity among Christians.’
      • ‘I am thinking especially of the oil painting in the Louvre where a tired and almost anaemic God is recognised by the two disciples with whom he breaks bread in the inn at Emmaus.’
      1. 1.1dated Share a meal with someone.
        ‘Donald's staying to break bread with us’
        • ‘Local residents can fire questions and voice concerns and break bread with them as they pass.’
        • ‘I'm out of town the rest of today for a loan closing and to break bread with an old friend or two.’
        • ‘I hope you are in not so much of a rush that you cannot stay and break bread with us.’
        • ‘Those who had the privilege to know him and break bread with him never felt bored or lonely.’
        • ‘I was able to break bread with him just last week.’
        have dinner, have supper
        View synonyms
  • break camp

    • Take down a tent or the tents of an encampment ready to leave.

      • ‘In the morning they broke camp and continued riding.’
      • ‘I immediately broke camp and headed for the Cimarron River Valley, southwest of Gunnison, on a tip from a local farmer who said it was one of his favorite places in the world.’
      • ‘Finally, on the morning of July 18 the regiment broke camp and boarded the transport Pennsylvania to ship out for the Philippines.’
      • ‘They were nearly silent for the rest of that afternoon, even after they broke camp and continued on their way for the remainder of the day.’
      • ‘They set up the camp, cook meals and break camp, leaving the traveler to enjoy the trek without the physical hardship of toting heavy packs.’
      • ‘They broke camp, and then mounted their horses.’
      • ‘Afterwards we broke camp, and piled into the hummer again.’
      • ‘The couple broke camp at first light and continued their trek.’
      • ‘We were more than eager to be up early the next morning, and wordlessly broke camp, and trudged along after Matt, peering through the thick air for a rooftop, a sure sign of the next rest stop to come.’
      • ‘After days of preparation, they were finally ready to break camp for good.’
  • break even

    • Reach a point in a business venture when the profits are equal to the costs.

      ‘the firm will break even at the operating level this year’
      • ‘The company I work for has 5 divisions and two lose money, one breaks even and two carry the company.’
      • ‘This year the company produced 300 motorcycles and came close to breaking even.’
      • ‘He said revenues from the deals meant the loss-making firm would not have to seek new funding before it breaks even next year.’
      • ‘The scheme broke even in its first year and its turnover last year was over €3 million.’
      • ‘At the time, analysts said that the company needed to show that it was on the road to breaking even - not just that the management team was confident it would break even.’
      • ‘The business is barely breaking even, and it's going to take extensive promotion and careful management to improve its performance.’
      • ‘By eliminating the extras, we were able to trim our costs and start breaking even fairly quickly.’
      • ‘But in the most recent quarter it barely broke even, reporting operating profit of just $5 million on sales of $1.1 billion.’
      • ‘The business was just about breaking even in January, with sales up 20 per cent on the previous year.’
      • ‘Even in a growing economy, it takes five to seven years before a magazine breaks even or turns a profit.’
  • break someone's fall

    • Prevent someone from hitting the ground heavily after a fall.

      ‘Adam caught hold of his son and broke his fall’
      • ‘She fell 11,000 ft and survived with a fractured pelvis and a few bruises after power lines broke her fall.’
      • ‘He pulled the cords of the pack down to position himself underneath her so his body would break her fall.’
      • ‘So far as we could tell, he wore no wire to break his fall.’
      • ‘Her involuntary reflexes kicked in, and she threw out her arms, managing to break his fall.’
      • ‘Luckily, I managed to get my hands out in front of me in an effort to break my fall.’
  • break someone's heart

    • Overwhelm someone with sadness.

      ‘it would break her heart to have to leave’
      • ‘‘He loves his mum, he loves his family and it breaks his heart to realise he has caused them considerable distress over the years,’ added Mr Pickles.’
      • ‘Last year, I spent the night being depressed because the ex broke my heart.’
      • ‘But his stories still roar, they still frighten, they still overwhelm, they still break your heart, and they still make you want to grab the person next to you and hold on.’
      • ‘He hated to upset her, it broke his heart to see her cry.’
      • ‘Riley was a mess, she had reason to be, but she was so upset, it just broke my heart to see her like that.’
      • ‘She was just absolutely hysterically funny in parts and then she broke your heart in other parts.’
      • ‘And that enough saddened me and broke my heart because I know what those families are going through.’
      • ‘It breaks your heart - it absolutely breaks your heart.’
      • ‘It breaks my heart to see him look so confused and upset.’
      • ‘When he finishes, her sadness descends so quickly, it nearly breaks his heart.’
      make sad, sadden, make unhappy, cast down, get down, make gloomy, make despondent, dispirit
      View synonyms
  • break the ice

    • Do or say something to relieve tension or get conversation going in a strained situation or when strangers meet.

      • ‘Perhaps next time, we should break the ice and make proper conversation.’
      • ‘In an attempt to break the ice, I rack my brain to continue the conversation.’
      • ‘The bartender decided to break the ice and make a little conversation.’
      • ‘I thought if I had one at home I could use it as a conversation piece, to break the ice at parties.’
      • ‘However, a smile and a ‘Bonjour’ was usually sufficient to break the ice in any conversation.’
      • ‘I offered, trying to keep the conversation to a minimum and break the ice at the same time.’
      • ‘If you understand a culture, you can break the ice in conversation, make a joke, or construct a speech better.’
      • ‘He had to break the ice before she would really engage in a conversation.’
      • ‘And so the audience laughed and that kind of broke the ice.’
      • ‘Although watching together broke the ice, the tension was still there.’
  • break in two

    • Break into two parts.

      ‘the slate fell from my hand and broke in two on the hard floor’
      • ‘The 484 ton Norwegian steamer Gier hit the reef in 1908, and broke in two.’
      • ‘Last September it broke in two, draining a trapped freshwater lake into the Arctic Ocean.’
      • ‘It will break in two at the perfect spot.’
      • ‘A plane breaks in two in midair; multi-colored thread denotes an explosion.’
      • ‘Mr Patel struggled with the raider, Justin Conway, and the plastic gun broke in two.’
      • ‘The holds and engine room flooded, she was abandoned and later caught fire, at some stage breaking in two.’
      • ‘Matt's heart had broken in two at that very moment.’
      • ‘He told her how his house had broken in two.’
      • ‘She felt her tears slide down her cheek, as she felt her heart break in two.’
      • ‘This can be done whether the ship is resting upside down, pitched at an angle or has broken in two.’
  • break a leg!

    • theatrical slang Good luck!

      • ‘Invariably, producers, managers, director and fellow cast members decide to pop their heads around dressing-room doors for a quick chat and a cheery ‘Break a leg, darling.’’
      • ‘Break a leg, and I'll join you on stage when you give the cue.’
      • ‘‘Break a leg,’ he whispered in my ear before releasing me.’
      • ‘‘Break a leg!’ I call after her.’
  • break the mould

    • Put an end to a restrictive pattern of events or behaviour by doing things in a markedly different way.

      ‘his work did much to break the mould of the old urban sociology’
      • ‘It is about being willing to take a few risks, having the courage to break the mould and not just blindly following a set pattern in your life.’
      • ‘He was probably the father figure of British comedy in the latter part of the last century and he truly broke the mould.’
      • ‘Linda Hartell-Payne, owner of the Dalesman Café said the Cumbrian contractors completely broke the mould of what people have come to think about British workmanship.’
      • ‘What it boils down to I am afraid is that everybody is too busy looking out for themselves and is too scared to break the mould of what society has defined as acceptable behaviour for its members.’
      • ‘Would someone attempt to break the mold and introduce a different element?’
      • ‘Of course, Sean Lineen, Boroughmuir's co-coach and a New Zealander, broke the mould, while others such as Howarth, Ben Fisher and James Reilly have proved astute acquisitions.’
      • ‘Prior to 2000, when Limerick broke the mould by beating Waterford in the final to win their one and only title, Kerry and Cork have divided the spoils between them since the championship began in 1962.’
      • ‘‘She broke the mould,’ says a Sinn Fein spokesman, ‘of past British secretaries of state, who tended to be quite distant.’’
      • ‘Last week, however, the mother-of-two broke the mould by walking away from the English Court of Appeal with £10m, or half her former husband Harry's fortune.’
      • ‘Rob Thomas' late, lamented Cupid broke the mold for cinematic TV shows that don't fit into the prescribed categories of one-hour dramas or half-hour sitcoms.’
      • ‘I broke the mould and moved out to an office,’ Mr Turner told the Herald.’
      • ‘Big Sandy and his band certainly broke the mould with last year's Night Tides - an unexpectedly dark album layered with bewitching instrumentation and haunting lyrics.’
      • ‘His response, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was a series of pieces that broke the mould of the serialism that was then the lingua franca of the avant-garde.’
      • ‘Bryant says there is a tendency among producers to look for work that resembles past successes, yet in the US shows such as Rent became hits because they broke the mould.’
      • ‘In fact, judging by the ardour of the enthused throng, the diversity of Friday night's performance broke the mould as it existed to this reviewer and many others.’
      • ‘Cookery shows broke the mould (quite literally in some cases) with lively young chefs revealing the cherished tricks of their trade and provoking thousands of us to be more adventurous with our groceries.’
      • ‘And what Irish woman will ever forget Mary Robinson's history making triumph in 1990, when she broke the mould by becoming the first woman to be elected President of Ireland?’
      • ‘In 1993 we broke the mould by becoming the first club from this area in 68 years to win the Scottish Junior Cup.’
      • ‘‘If there's a pattern that exists, we're going to break the mold,’ he says.’
      • ‘SIX young students successfully broke the mould of generations within their families by becoming the very first to participate in a State examination.’
  • break of day

    • Dawn.

      • ‘Every bone in my body was telling me to stay out of Lou's way if I ever wanted to see the break of day again.’
      • ‘They walked onwards until the break of day.’
      • ‘It would still be cold outside so early at the break of day so she could use all the clothes she had.’
      • ‘They walked the whole night long, and by break of day came once more to their father's house.’
      • ‘They undress and coat themselves in a glowing silver paint and dance until the break of day.’
      • ‘On the open plains of Texas, I first learned the character of our country: sturdy and honest, and as hopeful as the break of day.’
      • ‘The woods are not welcoming at the break of day.’
      • ‘Faint moonlight was streaming in from the broken windows, and from the weakness of the light outside, it was probably only a few hours before the break of day.’
      • ‘Ten minutes after break of day John will listen for the beat of wings and sure as light they will wheel in and come to rest to be fed, in the field across the road.’
      • ‘They come at the break of day as the sun is rising.’
  • break something open

    • Open something forcibly.

      ‘thieves used a stolen car to break open the store's front door’
      • ‘When Mr Moore got there, he claims he found a desk drawer had been broken open and went to the police with a complaint of illegal entry and theft.’
      • ‘The most common methods of theft, he said, involved thieves smashing windows, breaking locks open with a screwdriver or similar tool, or forcing metal doors open.’
      • ‘Inside the room, which was on the top floor of the eight-story apartment block, the officers found that a small safe had been broken open and emptied of its contents.’
      • ‘He kicked again and this time the impact of his heavy boot broke the door open.’
      • ‘Police broke the gates open and ordered pupils back to class, but the pupils refused, and sang anti-police songs.’
      • ‘From the other side of the house came the sound of splintering wood as the door was broken open.’
      • ‘An enslaved boatman spotted one particularly heavy trunk, broke it open, took some of its contents, and threw it into the James River.’
      • ‘It looks as if the hull was broken open for commercial salvage of the copper in the motors, and perhaps the torpedo tubes were salvaged from the bow at the same time.’
      • ‘The door was broken open from the inside, not the outside.’
      • ‘Instances of theft and robbery were reported where toolboxes were broken open, implements taken and others scattered around the adjacent bush.’
  • break rank

  • break (someone's) serve (or service)

    • Win a game in a tennis match against an opponent's service.

      ‘he broke serve twice in the third set’
      • ‘She broke her serve the two following times to take the first set 6-1 in a rapid 24 minutes.’
      • ‘At 6-6, Agassi was a point away from breaking his opponent's serve.’
      • ‘He's playing with so much power that I knew it would be tough to break his serve.’
      • ‘I don't think he broke Dent 's serve the entire match.’
      • ‘He saved match point seven times, and also had eight chances to break the American 's serve.’
      • ‘He breaks Scott 's serve for the first time with a sizzling forehand.’
      • ‘She had made what appeared to be a killer kick for home in the third set, breaking Williams 's serve and moving ahead 4-2.’
      • ‘I didn't have a proper warmup and she broke my serve right away,’ said the 17-year-old Russian, who won Sunday's Korea Open.’
      • ‘The 26-year-old dominated most of the match, breaking the Italian 's serve three times in a 6-1 first set, and again in her opening service game in the second.’
      • ‘When the Italian broke his opponent's serve in the third set to lead 3-2 it seemed victory was within his grasp.’
  • break ship

    • Fail to rejoin one's ship after absence on leave.

      • ‘He tried to break ship.’
      • ‘As the ship is about to set sail, he is caught trying to break ship.’
      • ‘He broke ship, and deserted several times.’
      • ‘One group of thirty broke ship and was left behind in Vancouver.’
  • break step

    • Stop walking or marching in step with others.

      ‘they walked past me without even breaking step’
      • ‘They were all of different heights and strides yet they never broke step.’
      • ‘Neither of them broke step as they walked with their heads up but eyes down.’
      • ‘Passers-by in this northern suburb in the foothills of Iran's Elborz Mountains are few, and most walk past without breaking step.’
      • ‘Then they break step and disperse over Southwark Bridge, chatting and slouching.’
  • break wind

    • Release gas from the anus.

      • ‘On one occasion he broke wind at the venue then turned around to ask the audience, ‘Who did that?’’
      • ‘Some scientists think cows breaking wind are more harmful than the greenhouse gases produced from our motor vehicles.’
      • ‘It is like being invited to someone's dinner party, insulting the chef, spitting on the floor, breaking wind loudly and then apologising.’
      • ‘A slight, sickly child, he grew increasingly odd and eccentric, throwing tantrums, fussing about and repeatedly breaking wind.’
      • ‘A Swedish man has been awarded nearly £60,000 compensation after he was sacked for telling off a colleague for breaking wind.’
      • ‘What's the correct, polite thing to do when someone breaks wind in your presence?’
      • ‘A vaccine that prevents sheep from breaking wind has been developed by Australian scientists in an attempt to reduce global warming.’
      • ‘If you were in a room with me and Jake and one of us broke wind, would you know which one it was?’
      • ‘It's the first ever study to suggest fish communicate by breaking wind.’
      • ‘The mother of a 13-year-old boy yesterday said he was suspended from school for two days simply because he broke wind in a classroom.’
  • a clean break

    • A complete separation from a situation or relationship.

      ‘Dan decided it was best to make a clean break with the past’
      • ‘Unable to make a clean break, he dragged things out until 1999.’
      • ‘Of course, I'd like to retain some involvement in the business after I handed over, though perhaps there's an argument for making a clean break.’
      • ‘He was right to make a clean break with the past.’
      • ‘He said he had no interest in becoming a manager and appeared happy to make a clean break.’
      • ‘They split up eight months ago over an old, and still unresolved, problem - Benjamin's refusal to make a clean break with Vanessa, a woman he no longer loves.’
      • ‘He decided that he needed a clean break and moved to a different town to start a new life.’
      • ‘But councillors eventually voted to close both schools, saying it was better to make a clean break before establishing the primary school.’
      • ‘I'd prefer to make a clean break and look elsewhere.’
      • ‘She said it was the right time to make a clean break and retire after the 1996 games.’
      • ‘I do blame myself - I had made a clean break and got drawn into this situation again for no good reason.’
  • give someone a break

    • 1informal [usually in imperative]Stop putting pressure on someone about something.

      ‘give the poor guy a break’
      • ‘It's time to give us a break, because people are fed up with all the inconvenience to pedestrians and drivers.’
      • ‘‘Please, I've only been a couple of minutes, it's Christmas, give us a break, please’.’
      • ‘In other words, they're saying: we do enough already - give us a break!’
      • ‘Though there were actually a couple of slip-ups with the service, we'll give them a break.’
      • ‘I have a lot of satisfied customers who have appreciated my efforts enough to use me again and again, so I respectfully suggest you give us a break.’
      • ‘So come on ref, give us a break and let us wear our mix-and-match football kit!’
      • ‘Jess, give Amber a break, she's obviously upset.’
      • ‘They wish you guys would give them a break and show them some respect.’
      • ‘The politicians need to pay attention to the people that are trying to make it and give them a break once in a while.’
      • ‘You really mean this, but when you try to tell people, they tell you to give them a break.’
      1. 1.1Used to express contemptuous disagreement or disbelief about what has been said.
        ‘He's seven times as quick and he's only 20 years old—give me a break!’
        • ‘Would anyone genuinely expect serious electoral matters to be raised at a works meeting!? Come on, give me a break.’
        • ‘The French-speaking population has increased over five times in size in the last 150 years. Is that a dying language? Give me a break!’
        • ‘‘Oh please, give me a break,’ I rolled my eyes jokingly.’
  • make a break for

    • Make a sudden dash in the direction of, especially in a bid to escape.

      ‘he made a break for the door’
      • ‘Quick, someone create a diversion so I can make a break for the toilet and scribble a note from my mum excusing me from class.’
      • ‘The driver then tried to make a break for it on foot, but was quickly apprehended by police who gave chase.’
      • ‘She then did rehab, stole a credit card and made a break for Hawaii.’
      • ‘Eventually he made a break for the office through the kitchen door, only to be dragged out by his mate.’
      • ‘The orang-utan escaped by pulling a tile from the roof of the enclosure yesterday afternoon, then climbed through the hole to make a break for freedom.’
      • ‘So, as she disappeared into the kitchen, I made a break for the door.’
      • ‘Ryan thought about making a break for it, but there was no way he'd escape before getting a bullet in the back.’
      • ‘By the midpoint of the film I was seriously considering making a break for the exit.’
      • ‘Tony took off for the hallway, tearing open the door and making a break for the elevator.’
      • ‘Two members of the group have made a break for the border.’
  • that's (or them's) the breaks

    • informal That's the way things turn out (used to express resigned acceptance of a situation).

      • ‘He didn't get a fair shake, it's true, but them's the breaks.’
      • ‘He could have won it for us in the final minute, but hey, them's the breaks.’
      • ‘Being an action picture, stereo would have been nice, but them's the breaks.’
      • ‘He appeared to be a mile offside, but them's the breaks.’
      • ‘To tell the truth, I'm a little disappointed in this outcome but them's the breaks…’
      • ‘I've really just given myself away to any of the fan community who may be reading this, but, well, them's the breaks!’
      • ‘It's sad that an otherwise solid and interesting game can border on unplayable due to terrible, absent level design, but them's the breaks.’
      • ‘Sometimes they won't talk to me; that's the breaks.’
      • ‘Well, hey, you made a choice and those were the results - them's the breaks.’
      • ‘If you just say something like ‘oh, well, them's the breaks,’ it's a clear sign that you don't have the intense passion to be a ‘Top Model.’’

Phrasal Verbs

  • break away

    • 1Escape from someone's hold.

      ‘Anna attempted to break away, but he held her tight’
      • ‘She was too stunned to move for a moment before she broke away from him.’
      • ‘She struggled and eventually broke away, and twirling out of his grasp, moved in the direction of her room, turning back to face him one final time.’
      • ‘‘Yeah, well, it's a day of love,’ I said wryly, breaking away from them and opening the nearest door to the courtyard.’
      • ‘He broke away from Conor and raced into the bushes, fading into the shadows.’
      • ‘I broke away, eyes opening slowly to see what damage had truly been done.’
      • ‘He broke away abruptly and held her arms so she couldn't move away.’
      • ‘The victim managed to break away from the assailants and ran off.’
      • ‘I broke away from Tobias, moving to attack again.’
      • ‘‘You need sleep,’ I said, breaking away from him and opening the door.’
      • ‘He was trying to break away from the officer and get at the other man.’
      escape, get away, run away, make a break for it, make a run for it, run for it, make one's getaway, flee, make off
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1Escape from the control of a person, group, or practice.
        ‘an attempt to break away from the elitism that has dominated the book trade’
        • ‘Girls had to break away from the bonds of home and family to be free to do what they wanted.’
        • ‘And while alcohol remains the most damaging to society, there has been an increase in people using extreme drugs to break away from reality in new ways.’
        • ‘These larger First Division clubs now want to break away to negotiate a separate TV deal.’
        • ‘After the February Revolution the Church saw an opportunity to break away from state control without sacrificing the privileges which cooperation with the state had obtained.’
        • ‘A larger drug gang had drawn him into the trade and his client was threatened with violence if he attempted to break away.’
        • ‘It provides knowledge, motivation and, most of all, an opportunity for poor people to break away from poverty.’
        • ‘Leading ex-ministers began to contemplate breaking away from Labour to form a new party.’
        • ‘‘But I don't want to break away from the convention,’ says Ms. Nair.’
        • ‘She said the problem had its roots in teenagers, some of whom might have problems at home, trying to break away from parental control.’
        • ‘Refusing to negotiate with the rebels who are fighting to break away from Russia, Putin has embarked on a ‘hear no evil, see no evil’ strategy.’
        leave, secede from, break with, split with, split off from, separate from, separate oneself from, detach oneself from, part company with, disaffiliate from, defect from, desert
        View synonyms
      2. 1.2(of a competitor in a race) move into the lead.
        ‘he broke away and opened up a 40-second lead’
        • ‘The men raced over a snowy 12k route and a group of 4 broke away early on and maintained their lead to the finish.’
        • ‘France broke away to a slight early lead holding it through the first half of the race.’
        • ‘However, at the start of the second lap five riders broke away stretching their lead to around 20 seconds.’
        • ‘But Australia and Germany broke away early on to move a lap ahead of the field.’
        • ‘Riders have to pick their moments to break away from the pack - and their rivals must deduce when that will happen and react accordingly.’
        • ‘After the peloton came back together there were many fruitless attempts to break away and the peloton arrived in Barcelona compact.’
        • ‘With eight kilometers left in the race seven women broke away from the main peloton.’
        • ‘But I was able to race well and make sure no-one broke away without me being there.’
        • ‘Piil was in a group of nine riders who broke away from the main pack just 16 km into the race.’
        • ‘There were several attempts to try and break away on the first climb of the day but they were all neutralized.’
  • break down

    • 1(of a machine or motor vehicle) suddenly cease to function.

      ‘his van broke down’
      • ‘Leaving for class the next day, my car suddenly broke down.’
      • ‘If your machine breaks down, this could prove costly.’
      • ‘Your new washing machine breaks down, and when you try to get someone to look at it, you're told you didn't fill in the guarantee form in time - even though you know you did.’
      • ‘Suddenly the bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere, which is officially the worst place to have a breakdown.’
      • ‘No-one knows when the car will break down, the washing machine go into hyper-spin, or worse still, you lose your job, your child becomes sick or your partner leaves you.’
      • ‘If the machine breaks down, you could be left miles from help.’
      • ‘That way, when the car breaks down, the washing machine floods the kitchen floor or the telly goes ping you don't need to make a drama out of a crisis.’
      • ‘The washing machine broke down - again - over Christmas.’
      • ‘Who is responsible, for instance, when a machine breaks down?’
      • ‘If a particular washing machine broke down after seven months of normal use, it would seem probable that there was something wrong with it at the time of sale.’
      stop working, cease to function, cease to work, go wrong, seize up, give out, develop a fault
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1(of a relationship, agreement, or process) cease to continue; collapse.
        ‘pay negotiations with management broke down’
        • ‘Within weeks, however, the agreement began to break down and before long violence had reached an unparalleled intensity.’
        • ‘While a relationship is breaking down, people can be unspeakably cruel to each other.’
        • ‘John is urging owners to pay more consideration to their animals' needs when their marriage or relationship breaks down.’
        • ‘Our relationship was breaking down, and I think she knew I was going to leave her.’
        • ‘But when their relationship broke down he moved back to his North East home and lost touch.’
        • ‘Your marriage breaks down (or you suddenly get hitched) and your life changes completely…’
        • ‘The talks broke down on Friday without agreement.’
        • ‘After wage negotiations with hospital management broke down last week, the National Medical Workers Union last Thursday voted in favor of a strike.’
        • ‘Relations with his own father suddenly and unexpectedly broke down.’
        • ‘Doctors have gone on strike after an agreement with management broke down.’
        fail, collapse, come to nothing, founder, fall through, come to grief, be unsuccessful, not succeed, disintegrate
        View synonyms
      2. 1.2Lose control of one's emotions when in a state of distress.
        ‘the old woman broke down in tears’
        • ‘The witness broke down in tears during her testimony.’
        • ‘In December 1998 he broke down in tears after losing to a little - known rival from Hong Kong.’
        • ‘Emotion swept over her as she broke down in tears.’
        • ‘She didn't seem to be the type to suddenly break down.’
        • ‘She wondered if his whereabouts for the past 24 hours had something to do with his mood and that's what caused him to break down so suddenly tonight.’
        • ‘Suddenly, she broke down into sobs, her hand leaving the knife handle and tears falling down her face like waterfalls.’
        • ‘Suddenly I found myself breaking down, my body heaving with sobs, and I felt Jordan's arms close around me and pull me close.’
        • ‘She was afraid she would lose herself and completely break down.’
        • ‘He tried to keep calm, not wanting to lose control and break down in front of the man who was challenging him.’
        • ‘When my co-worker got off the phone, she just broke down in tears.’
        burst into tears, dissolve into tears
        View synonyms
      3. 1.3(of a person's health or emotional control) fail or collapse.
        ‘his health broke down under the strain of overwork’
        ‘Janet's normal self-control and impassiveness had broken down utterly’
        • ‘In 1883 Archibald's health broke down and he travelled to London, hoping perhaps to make his fortune on Fleet Street.’
        • ‘I nursed my wife for three-and-a-half years until my health broke down.’
        • ‘‘I'm scared of being old and dying without dignity and my body breaking down,’ he continues.’
        • ‘He was appointed to this chair in 1883 but his health, which had always been poor, broke down completely in February 1886.’
        • ‘His health, precarious since the war, broke down in 1921.’
        • ‘In the spring of 1901 his health broke down.’
        • ‘Golf was another pleasure until his health broke down.’
        • ‘In the summer of 1927, the Indian prince's health broke down and he went to Switzerland to recuperate.’
        • ‘His health broke down in the Far East and he returned home to recuperate.’
        • ‘For the next ten years, until his health broke down, he worked with great zeal to establish a public system of elementary education, supervised by a national body of inspectors.’
    • 2Undergo chemical decomposition.

      ‘waste products which break down into low-level toxic materials’
      • ‘Grass cuttings, if not mixed with other stuff, will break down into a layer of thick green sludge.’
      • ‘In other cases, a drug may break down into other, harmful substances.’
      • ‘These plastics eventually break down into harmless products, but only after up to several hundred years.’
      • ‘In the chemical reaction, compounds break down to form various gases.’
      • ‘Rather, large molecules tend to break down into smaller ones.’
      • ‘During digestion, carbohydrates break down into sugar and enter the bloodstream in the form of glucose, a simple sugar.’
      • ‘You can throw your cuttings as well as dried leaves in your compost bin, which will break down into a nutrient-rich compost for next season.’
      • ‘When you eat carbs, they break down into glucose, which is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver.’
      • ‘Ozone also tends to be unstable and break down into dioxygen and nascent oxygen and to react readily with other substances.’
      • ‘The use of aspartame is limited at high or prolonged temperatures because it breaks down and loses its sweetness.’
  • break something down

    • 1Demolish a door or other barrier.

      ‘they had to get the police to break the door down’
      figurative ‘class barriers can be broken down by educational reform’
      • ‘The ‘see me’ campaign has been funded by the Scottish health department to break down negative attitudes towards mental health problems.’
      • ‘Eventually the police managed to break the door down, carry her out and bring her here to spend the night.’
      • ‘Firemen then broke his door down and he was led to safety, the court was told.’
      • ‘They have both agreed to come and tell their personal stories in the hope of breaking down some of the taboos that surround mental health.’
      • ‘On other occasions thieves have rammed the doors with a vehicle to gain entry and tried to break down the back door with an axe.’
      • ‘I don't remember much after that, they told me my dad broke the door down and then called an ambulance.’
      • ‘One group of firefighters broke the inner door down and other firefighters were hoisted up to the balcony to fight the fire from two sides.’
      • ‘No one was in the premises when police broke the door down, and detectives were today making further inquiries.’
      • ‘When two men inside refused to open the door, police broke it down.’
      • ‘‘They had to break the door down to get her out,’ said Diana.’
      knock down, kick down, stave in, smash in, pull down, tear down, demolish, destroy
      View synonyms
    • 2Separate something into a number of parts.

      ‘each tutorial is broken down into more manageable units’
      • ‘They are made up of 6-10 units that break your job down into separate functions that reflect the different things you do in your job.’
      • ‘To do it, you have to break the whole operation down into separate, understandable, manageable components.’
      • ‘I break the stroke down into its many components, train those components as separate entities, then put it back together to train for timing.’
      • ‘They broke it down into separate categories such as ‘moral authority’ and ‘crisis leadership.’’
      • ‘My nervousness is coming back, but the instructors break down the driving into fairly foolproof bites.’
      • ‘The human body is not a machine and its malfunctioning cannot be adequately analysed by breaking the system down into its component parts and considering each in isolation.’
      • ‘He breaks down the recording process into the simplest of terms.’
      • ‘The 160 House members and 39 senators essentially break down into three groups.’
      • ‘Fortunately, the report breaks the statistics down into highly specific segments which are informative and very useful.’
      • ‘The scientific management method consisted of breaking down a business process into component activities.’
      divide, separate
      View synonyms
      1. 2.1Analyse information.
        ‘bar graphs show how the information can be broken down’
        • ‘It is one of the best in 20 years, and, if we analyse it and break it down, we will understand that better.’
        • ‘Although this is proper, basic financial reports don't break the data down into information that will show you the true picture of your company or of a specific job.’
        • ‘However, the figures are not broken down by race.’
        • ‘It also sets out no guidelines on whether votes will be broken down by constituency or nation.’
        • ‘And one suspects that if the survey results were broken down by geographic region, it would be even less divisive in many red states.’
        • ‘Statistical groups are broken down by age, sex, race and geographic location.’
        • ‘It is a similar picture when the detailed results are broken down by political party.’
        • ‘But that changes when survey respondents are broken down by race.’
        • ‘However, when the sample is broken down by age, there is a shift in the frequencies for bones from juvenile individuals.’
        • ‘This year's national results were broken down by gender for the first time and showed that 54 per cent of entries were from women and 46 per cent from men.’
        analyse, categorize, classify, sort out, itemize, organize
        View synonyms
      2. 2.2Convert a substance into simpler compounds by chemical action.
        ‘almost every natural substance can be broken down by bacteria’
        • ‘A small amount of the sucrose is broken down into glucose.’
        • ‘Proteins are broken down into amino acids and fats are broken down into fatty acids.’
        • ‘When starches and refined sugars are eaten together and undergo fermentation they are broken down into carbon dioxide, acetic acid, alcohol and water.’
        • ‘The venom is broken down by heat.’
        • ‘In most instances, whey proteins can be broken down by heat.’
        • ‘Eventually, all organisms are broken down by bacteria into nutrients that return to the environment.’
        • ‘Complex chemical units are broken down into more simple substances.’
        • ‘When carbohydrates are digested, they are broken down into sugar molecules, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream, leading to an increase in blood-glucose levels.’
        • ‘Currently insulin cannot be taken in a pill because the hormone is broken down by powerful acids in the stomach.’
        • ‘These loosely bonded and larger molecules are broken down into smaller molecules.’
  • break forth

    • Burst out suddenly; emerge.

      ‘having to control the chaos that might break forth’
      • ‘A hoarse yell broke forth from some of the celebrants, a sign that her words were taking effect.’
      • ‘The tropical breeze sways the palms just as the sun breaks forth to start another spectacular day in paradise.’
      • ‘Philip's smile broke forth again, pleased and relieved.’
      • ‘At last their feelings became too strong and broke forth in weeping and wailing, tears and groans, intermingled with shouts of glory and praise from some of the people of God.’
      • ‘Despite my effort, a sob broke forth from my lungs, and his eyes were suddenly upon me.’
  • break free

    • another way of saying break away
      • ‘He is planning to take a Masters in drugs misuse so he can help others to escape the cycle of drugs and crime from which he broke free.’
      • ‘He broke free and managed to stagger to a nearby house where he collapsed in the garden.’
      • ‘A total of six elephants broke free from their handlers while they were on parade at an amusement park.’
      • ‘Following a struggle the brave youngster finally managed to break free from the man and make her escape.’
      • ‘During the struggle the victim managed to break free and fled to the bathroom where she locked herself in.’
      • ‘He eventually managed to break free and fled nursing a battle-scarred arm.’
      • ‘The right side of the fire escape broke free from the brick building and swung down towards the street.’
      • ‘The man resisted, broke free and had turned to leave when his mobile phone dropped to the ground.’
      • ‘The plucky farmer is understood to have startled the thief who eventually broke free and made his escape to a waiting car.’
      • ‘At one stage, she broke free and crawled along the concrete trying to escape while he clutched at her legs.’
  • break in

    • 1Force entry to a building.

      ‘would-be thieves had smashed the door lock in an attempt to break in’
      • ‘The burglar, who broke in by a window at the house yesterday, left through the back door, taking a camcorder.’
      • ‘Police believe the burglars broke in with the intention of stealing stock, but were probably scared off.’
      • ‘The thieves broke in through a rear window after scaling up a drain pipe to enter the first floor of the store, which covers 6,000 square feet.’
      • ‘The thieves broke in through the back door of the three-storey building.’
      • ‘Burglars first broke in Tuesday last week and took four projectors, each worth £1, 000, from a corridor.’
      • ‘The thieves broke in by forcing a casement window in the dining room before ransacking the house.’
      • ‘When no one answered, they broke in and searched the building, only to find a watchman sleeping at his post.’
      • ‘A disabled woman has been forced out of her home after thugs broke in and smashed up the lounge.’
      • ‘They broke in by forcing a lock on a door and then made off in a stolen car.’
      • ‘The raid happened at 9.30 on Saturday night and police are not revealing how the robbers broke in.’
      commit burglary, break and enter
      View synonyms
    • 2[with direct speech]Interject.

      ‘‘I don't want to interfere,’ Mrs Hendry broke in’
      ‘the doctor's voice broke in on her thoughts’
      • ‘‘So where are we going to go now?’ she broke in.’
      • ‘‘We know that,’ broke in Chris.’
      • ‘The publicist, sitting between us in the back seat, broke in, ‘A friend of mine is the U. S. ambassador to France.’’
      interrupt, butt in, cut in, interject, interpose, intervene, chime in
      View synonyms
  • break someone in

    • 1Familiarize someone with a new job or situation.

      ‘there was no time to break in a new foreign minister’
      • ‘He will be broken in slowly, in a way different than the rest.’
      • ‘I figured they were breaking me in and not giving me a chance to think this would be an easy job.’
      • ‘His supervisor was intent on breaking him in with verbal and physical abuse - or what he described as character building.’
      • ‘Initially, you are broken in gently, but too gently, for the first two campaigns are over before you have any real trouble.’
      • ‘He broke me in, literally taught me everything I know and everything I can do.’
      • ‘Is this another way of breaking us in gently, as per your previous observations?’
      • ‘‘Oh that's right,’ Morgan plays along, ‘we're breaking you in slowly, right?’’
      • ‘He doesn't like people, until his roommate breaks him in with typical Irish charm.’
      train, prepare, prime, initiate, condition
      show someone the ropes
      View synonyms
    • 2Accustom a horse to a saddle and bridle, and to being ridden.

      ‘I break in my dad's horses’
      • ‘In the coming months, foals would be broken in, stallions exercised to the limit and animals bought and sold.’
      • ‘He next day, his son grappled with one of these wild horses and tried to break it in, and he got thrown and broke his leg.’
      • ‘She broke them in and she rode them and that is how she got into the British team.’
      • ‘Many of the horses had not been broken in and it was difficult to round them up.’
      • ‘Anne and Jimmy make a living by taking guests, breeding horses, breaking them in and selling them.’
  • break something in

    • Wear something, typically a pair of new shoes, until it becomes supple and comfortable.

      • ‘To break your shoes in, wear them around your house for a few days.’
      • ‘Next, carefully check that the boots were broken in evenly and have not been deformed due to a bad previous blade mounting or bad habits of the previous owner.’
      • ‘It turns out she's going to the company ball at the weekend, and she's bought new shoes for it and decided to wear them to work to break them in.’
      • ‘He's wearing square-toed ski boots, breaking them in for Norway.’
      • ‘To break them in, I decided to wear them under my jeans to the corner shop.’
      • ‘Never, never wear new shoes without breaking them in at least a week ahead of time.’
      • ‘During today's fitting it finally felt as comfortable as I'd hoped - although I'll need to break it in and wear it for a while before I'll know for sure whether it's right.’
      • ‘Shoes can become more comfortable once you break them in, but if they're not comfortable to begin with when you're trying them on in the store, chances are they will never be.’
      • ‘When you buy regular shoes, you just walk around everywhere in them to break them in.’
      • ‘Try on as many pairs as necessary to find a pair that's instantly comfortable; you should never have to break them in.’
  • break into

    • 1Enter or open (a place, vehicle, or container) forcibly, especially for the purposes of theft.

      ‘two raiders broke into his home’
      ‘a friend of mine had his car broken into’
      • ‘They broke into the vehicles by smashing the windows, causing more than £600 damage in total.’
      • ‘Residents on a York housing estate woke up to a scene of destruction after thieves broke into a string of vehicles in a private car park.’
      • ‘Detectives are appealing for information after burglars broke into a house and stole a safe containing items worth £10,000.’
      • ‘In a terrifying incident in 1988, armed raiders broke into her house and threatened her family at gunpoint.’
      • ‘In Italy, four armed burglars broke into a man's house.’
      • ‘While he parked at the Trafford Centre to buy a birthday present, thieves broke into the vehicle to seize the laptop, discs and a camera.’
      • ‘Burglars broke into the house by forcing open a conservatory window and a door leading into the kitchen.’
      • ‘Last night while I was down here with you lot, a burglar broke into my house.’
      • ‘But if we catch somebody red-handed snatching an old lady's bag, or breaking into a vehicle in the street, we've got every right to apprehend them.’
      • ‘Thieves broke into the house through the kitchen window and took a stereo and a tool box.’
      burgle, rob
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1Succeed in winning a share of (a market or a position in a profession)
        ‘foreign companies have largely failed to break into the domestic-equity business’
        • ‘She broke into a position normally held by retired military officers or well-connected businessmen.’
        • ‘But there is a lot of competition in that area, it's difficult to break into a market when you only have a few customers.’
        • ‘Chinese companies attempting to break into overseas markets are desperately trying to buy or build global brands.’
        • ‘Australian exporters keen on breaking into the Japanese market can still find plenty of opportunities.’
        • ‘I've been in the business for more than 10 years, but I am having a tough time breaking into an upper-management position.’
        • ‘They can offer advice, support and expertise to help companies break into overseas markets.’
        • ‘It is hoped that information gained from the three-year project will be used by other farmers who want to break into the organic market.’
        • ‘They're breaking into new markets, launching new products, and starting to think about deals.’
        • ‘Reports from the US say the company is setting aside $50 million to break into the Russian market this year.’
        • ‘It also showed that Chinese companies are serious about breaking into the European market.’
      2. 1.2Interrupt (a conversation)
        ‘Phil broke into the discussion’
        • ‘He walked up and broke into the conversation to let me know that his name was Alex and I would have to leave the premises immediately.’
        • ‘Kaitlin nodded, finally seeing a chance to break into the conversation.’
        • ‘Bert decided this would be a good time to break into the conversation, ‘How was your day?’’
        • ‘She ignored his apprehension and broke into their conversation boldly.’
        • ‘He started to protest again when Harriman broke into the middle of the conversation.’
        • ‘He had to break into the conversation to make a point.’
        • ‘They were all trying to find a way to break into the conversation.’
        • ‘She broke into the conversation with her usual want of tact.’
        • ‘The young sheriff scratched his head and the well-dressed man broke into the conversation.’
        • ‘Dr. Connelly cleared his throat, breaking into their conversation and making them looked up at him.’
        interrupt, butt into, cut in on, intervene in
        View synonyms
    • 2Suddenly or unexpectedly burst forth into (laughter or song)

      ‘he broke into a fit of choking laughter’
      • ‘He was stunned at first, then broke into a fit of laughter.’
      • ‘Like any musical, it never seems strange when someone breaks into song, accompanied by an entire orchestra that nobody can actually see.’
      • ‘All three broke into laughing, but were interrupted by the doorbell ringing.’
      • ‘At various points along the way, the group spontaneously broke into song.’
      • ‘This appeared to be some sort of private joke because they all suddenly broke into laughter.’
      • ‘The two girls broke into sudden and unexpected laughter.’
      • ‘I just hoped she wouldn't suddenly break into song.’
      • ‘He interrupts conversations by breaking into song.’
      • ‘She barely finished the sentence before breaking into another fit of laughter.’
      • ‘And as easily as speaking, she broke into a song that touched the hearts of all those present.’
      begin suddenly, burst into, launch into
      View synonyms
      1. 2.1(of a person's face or mouth) relax into (a smile)
        ‘John's face broke into a grin’
        • ‘And he breaks into a smile for the first time today.’
        • ‘She is petite, blonde and quick to break into a sunny smile.’
        • ‘To my astonishment, his usual calm smile broke into a wide mischievous grin.’
        • ‘‘You are lucky,’ the doctor said, breaking into a smile.’
        • ‘She pulled open the door and felt her mouth break into a rather large grin.’
        • ‘Her face broke into an uneasy smile as she looked at him, standing tall at 6 feet, with a slim yet athletic build and a devilish glint in his eyes.’
        • ‘The kid broke into a sweet smile on hearing the joke, and with that the old man gave him a bear hug, covering his cheeks with kisses amid joyful tears.’
        • ‘Her wizened face broke into a smile as she took in the sight of the three of them on her doorstep, ‘Visitors!’’
        • ‘He then breaks into a big smile, as if to reassure me he is only teasing.’
        • ‘Her face brightened and her eyes lit up as her mouth broke into a smile.’
    • 3Change one's pace to (a faster one)

      ‘Greg broke into a sprint’
      • ‘I broke into a sprint and ran the rest of the way home.’
      • ‘As soon as James was out of sight of the main room, he broke into a run, sprinting down the hall and throwing the door open.’
      • ‘He then broke into a sprint, knocking the remnants of the door completely off its hinges, and he sped down the staircase into the secret basement.’
      • ‘Ryan stormed down the street and Caleb stared after him in shock then he abruptly let go of Emma, broke into a run and sprinted after Ryan as if the devil was on his heels.’
      • ‘I keep my pace quite fast without breaking into a jog, just to get my heart rate up.’
      • ‘‘Let's go,’ said Leon as he broke into a sprint, followed closely by his father and brother.’
      • ‘She ducked down an alley, got out of sight of the main crowd, then broke into a sprint.’
      • ‘A tear dropped, I started walking faster, and then faster until eventually I broke into a sprint and ran as fast as I could.’
      • ‘He breaks into a sprint and dashes across the finishing line.’
      • ‘Arin broke into a sprint, heading down the dark passage.’
  • break off

    • 1Become severed.

      ‘the fuselage had broken off just behind the pilot's seat’
      • ‘It began life as a separate ice tongue roughly the size of Belgium before breaking off and floating into the Southern Ocean.’
      • ‘He developed a massive blood clot that formed in his leg veins, broke off and travelled to his lungs.’
      • ‘The rubber blade eventually broke off and we were stuck in the rain with only one good blade.’
      • ‘She reaches for a strand of hair and twists it tightly around her finger pulling so tight that I can see the tiny hairs snapping and breaking off.’
      • ‘Every time I grabbed anything on the side of the rock to try to stop my descent, it broke off and came with me.’
      • ‘Had to mow the law, though - usually a simple joy, but a pain since the lawn mower handle broke off.’
      • ‘When pieces of the ice broke off, they pushed over the pieces next to them, like books falling on a shelf.’
      • ‘They suspect that part of the lava dome broke off, sending melted ice from a glacier onto hot rocks below.’
      • ‘They have been left out of pocket after a vital part broke off their electric fire.’
      • ‘Two of the chairs legs broke off in a loud snap from the force of the blow.’
      snap off, come off, become detached, become separated, become severed
      View synonyms
    • 2Abruptly stop talking.

      ‘she broke off, stifling a sob’
      • ‘But he broke off when he remembered that he was talking to the enemy, not an ally.’
      • ‘Faith and Grace who had been telling him something, abruptly broke off, when Father got up and rushed over to me.’
      • ‘As he was saying this, his son John appeared and he broke off.’
  • break something off

    • 1Remove something from a larger unit or whole.

      ‘Tucker broke off a piece of bread’
      • ‘I break some small pieces off, and sprinkle them onto the surface of the water, and wait, tensed with excitement.’
      • ‘Growing plants are influenced strongly by their environment - some leaves grow more strongly than others because of the light falling on them; some buds are chewed by herbivores, and whole branches are broken off.’
      • ‘You break pieces off, and one or two of the more co-operative chimps would come down.’
      • ‘I broke a piece off of the pretzel and offered it to him in my palm, face up.’
      • ‘You will probably have noticed that when you take a branch from certain trees (some conifers for example), the branch looks like a miniature version of the tree, and when you break a piece off the branch, that looks like a tree too.’
      • ‘Jeremy broke a piece off for her and handed it to her very politely.’
      • ‘She broke another piece off and shoved it in her mouth.’
      • ‘When removing the pepper from the vine, cutting or breaking it off work equally as well.’
      • ‘Remove old flowers on the plants by carefully breaking them off.’
      • ‘Those collisions break pieces off of satellites and hence create new fragments that in turn can collide with still other satellites.’
      snap off, pull off, sever, detach, separate
      View synonyms
    • 2Abruptly end or discontinue something.

      ‘Britain threatened to break off diplomatic relations’
      • ‘Deciding that events had overtaken them they broke the meeting off.’
      • ‘Negotiations could be broken off at any stage if they failed to move in the right direction.’
      • ‘The first attack took place after diplomatic relations had been broken off but before the formal declaration of war.’
      • ‘But, for unknown reasons, the affair was broken off soon after the interview.’
      • ‘I broke things off with him because, while he's nice to look at, I don't enjoy spending time with him.’
      • ‘She temporarily broke the relationship off in the early stages, alarmed by the sudden intensity it had taken on.’
      • ‘The sale negotiations were broken off in August 2000 and the Bulgarian Government said the offered price was too low.’
      • ‘He has been engaged twice but both women broke it off abruptly before the wedding.’
      • ‘Bryan and I have decided to completely break our relationship off for good.’
      • ‘Our relationship lasted for nearly a year before I broke it off.’
      end, bring to an end, terminate, put an end to, call a halt to, stop, cease, finish, dissolve
      View synonyms
  • break out

    • 1(of war, fighting, or similarly undesirable things) start suddenly.

      ‘forest fires have broken out across Indonesia’
      • ‘Many fights and minor scuffles broke out among the crowd and when officers tried to calm the situation the mob turned hostile.’
      • ‘Police were called after fighting broke out among a group of around 40 men.’
      • ‘I won't be at all surprised to find out that a fight broke out after I left.’
      • ‘When war broke out he willingly fought for Britain, and before being sent to France he adopted a British name so that he would not be shot as a traitor if captured.’
      • ‘A fight broke out early on Saturday morning, in the car park of the club.’
      • ‘Riot police moved in when fighting broke out between the two sets of supporters inside the stadium during the first half.’
      • ‘A fire breaks out suddenly in the house of the Empress, due to negligence of one of her maids.’
      • ‘A violent fight broke out between the two groups of residents, with the brawl lasting for an hour and a half.’
      • ‘The incident happened after a fight broke out between a group of up to six youngsters in the school's playground at about 8.45 am.’
      • ‘She was crossing the road when gunfire broke out suddenly as a car drove by.’
      flare up, begin suddenly, start suddenly, erupt, burst out, blow up, set in
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1(of a physical discomfort) suddenly manifest itself.
        ‘prickles of sweat had broken out along her backbone’
        • ‘And why was a little touch of cold sweat breaking out across her palms all of a sudden… ‘Yes?’’
        • ‘A sudden chill went down his spine, and sweat broke out on his hands and face.’
        • ‘You may suddenly break out into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.’
        • ‘A flush feeling came over my face as though I had suddenly broken out into a cold sweat.’
    • 2Escape.

      ‘a prisoner broke out of his cell’
      • ‘Eventually convicted, he broke out of jail and formed the Stander Gang, which sometimes robbed four banks a day.’
      • ‘Should they manage to escape, they are to be pursued as dangerous fugitives and charged in the same way as convicts who break out of high security jails.’
      • ‘It was too narrow, executives decided, and would do little to help the company break out of the event marketing niche.’
      • ‘Yes, and once you're in the prison system it's very hard to break out of it.’
      • ‘He had served only 15 months of his sentence when he broke out of prison in 1965.’
      • ‘He broke out of jail and has been following me for the past three years.’
      • ‘The man had been shot dead trying to break out of jail.’
      • ‘The comedy begins with two friends attempting to break out of jail.’
      • ‘He invites us to break out of the confinements of academic art and art history in order to open our eyes a little wider and take a glimpse at what is a far greater vision.’
      • ‘While on remand at Winchester Prison in January he had tried to break out of his cell.’
      escape from, make one's escape from, break loose from, burst out of, abscond from, flee from
      View synonyms
  • break out in

    • Be suddenly affected by an unpleasant sensation or condition.

      ‘she had broken out in a rash’
      • ‘Although it can kill if it enters the lungs, blister gas is used mainly to weaken infantry by making the skin break out in excruciatingly painful blisters.’
      • ‘Gasping, fighting for breath, she crouched on the cold floor, breaking out in sweat.’
      • ‘They worked me so hard I can't remember my 20s, apart from the fact I broke out in rashes.’
      • ‘Everyone I know has a new four wheel drive and suddenly the sight of my ageing Ford Focus makes me break out in a terrible rash.’
      • ‘Last night I scratched so much that I broke out in hives on my arms and drew blood on my legs.’
      • ‘Brian noticed this, and broke out in a sudden blush of embarrassment.’
      • ‘He was stripped of his clothes and eyeglasses and held in conditions so appalling that to this day he breaks out in a cold sweat when he talks about it.’
      • ‘The youngster's condition first emerged when she broke out in a rash while gnawing on a rusk.’
  • break something out

    • Open and start using something.

      ‘it was time to break out the champagne’
      • ‘Have board games handy, and break them out when things are dull.’
      • ‘Also, if you happen to have a private jet and an apartment in Paris, now's the time to break them out.’
      • ‘Hang on though, don't break the bunting out just yet.’
      • ‘We won't be doing handstands in the streets or breaking the champagne out.’
  • break through

    • 1Make or force a way through (a barrier)

      ‘demonstrators attempted to break through the police lines’
      ‘the sun might break through in a few spots’
      • ‘However, around midday, the sun broke through and the visitors flooded in.’
      • ‘The small spearhead would counterattack the eastern flank of the attacking force and try to break through their front lines.’
      • ‘Eight people were arrested during the demonstration after students broke through police lines.’
      • ‘A personal trainer or coach can help you break through mental barriers and set higher goals.’
      • ‘Someone broke through the police cordon and kicked him with terrible force.’
      • ‘Arnold became obsessed with breaking through the pain barrier.’
      • ‘One man reported that the security forces broke through the gates of his house and took away his two adult sons.’
      • ‘They are both quiet until the plane is up in the air, breaking through the barrier of clouds.’
      • ‘Occasionally the sun broke through the clouds, but it never really warmed us.’
      • ‘Now and again the sun breaks through the clouds.’
      1. 1.1Achieve success in a particular area.
        ‘so many talented players are struggling to break through’
        • ‘The party is trying to break through in these areas after the base it had in areas such as east London in the early 1990s collapsed.’
        • ‘A Manchester United starlet, he broke through to the first team squad.’
        • ‘We think Rick really broke through as somebody who's tough and able to deliver for New York.’
        • ‘The weary Englishmen, with six dropped catches during the innings, eventually broke through in the afternoon.’
        • ‘It is probably her best album, certainly the one with which she broke through with critical acclaim and commercial success.’
        • ‘It wants to use its success in Burnley as a launchpad to break through elsewhere.’
        • ‘She is defending her seat against the advancing Conservatives, who broke through last year to take one of the ward's three seats.’
        • ‘They've been up-and-down all season, finally breaking through with a ton of success lately.’
        • ‘They reckon that the Beatles really broke through in America after they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.’
  • break up

    • 1Disintegrate or disperse.

      ‘the grey clouds had begun to break up’
      • ‘Pumps were put on the vessel to keep it afloat so that local boats could try and tow it from the rocks but it began to break up after an hour and a half.’
      • ‘So, as the ice begins to break up on the bay, the bears move closer and closer to the coastline, eating as many seals as they can to store up fat.’
      • ‘The temperature rises to between - 20 and - 40 degrees Celsius, and the ice has not yet begun to break up.’
      • ‘Outside, the rain had stopped, and the clouds were beginning to break up, though inside the barn it remained gloomy.’
      • ‘The rain had stopped and the clouds had begun to break up by the time he woke.’
      • ‘They have identified 85 trouble spots where engineers fear trains could be derailed by tracks that have begun to break up.’
      • ‘One of the workers, Sandile Matshini, tells of his lucky escape when a container in which he was sleeping was pulled up a hill as the ship began breaking up.’
      • ‘The one mass of land began to break up, and the separating continents took with them living cargoes of animals.’
      • ‘Since then, for reasons that are uncertain, this landmass began to break up and the continents gradually moved into the positions they are in today.’
      • ‘Spring in Alaska is often referred to as ‘breakup’ because snow and ice on rivers and lakes begin to melt and break up.’
      1. 1.1(of a gathering or collective) disband; end.
        ‘after about an hour, the meeting broke up’
        • ‘Later he broke up the group and began an influential career as musician.’
        • ‘The meeting broke up without any firm decision being taken, as all members are now to be circulated to ascertain attitudes to the proposed £4,500 charge.’
        • ‘A police mission to break up unruly gangs is beginning to work.’
        • ‘The meeting broke up without reaching an agreement.’
        • ‘Last March, he and other officers broke up a gathering near the scene of the crash.’
        • ‘The police tried to break up any groups that gathered.’
        • ‘Police will also use a Dispersal Order to break up groups of youths loitering on the streets.’
        • ‘The police clearly have orders to break up even the smallest gathering despite the fact that freedom of expression and assembly are constitutionally guaranteed.’
        • ‘The crowd began to break up, flowing down the hall to their classes.’
        • ‘There will even be powers for the police to break up public meetings and gatherings without the need for specific permission from the Home Office or any government minister or department.’
        disperse, scatter, go in different directions, move in different directions, go separate ways, disband, separate, part company
        come to an end, end, finish, stop, terminate
        View synonyms
      2. 1.2British End the school term.
        ‘we broke up for the summer’
        • ‘Schools break up for their half term this Friday, October 22 and return on Tuesday, November 2.’
        • ‘The weekend before school broke up, Emily threw a farewell party for Liz and Steven.’
        • ‘The Lowry should be in a class of its own when the schools break up for half term.’
        • ‘The snow began, school broke up for the Christmas holidays, and she knew she would never be back again.’
        • ‘The school is expected to break up for the summer term today with many students sitting Leaving and Junior Cert exams next week.’
      3. 1.3(of a couple in a relationship) part company.
        ‘I was heartbroken when we broke up’
        • ‘The couple broke up and the stress of life as a single mother pushed her to the brink of a nervous breakdown.’
        • ‘We broke up a week before school ended, and haven't spoken since.’
        • ‘But our relationship soon fell apart and we broke up a couple weeks later.’
        • ‘A story is told of a New York couple who break up, because the husband, Stanley, has informed his wife, Jessie, that for the last year he's been having an affair.’
        • ‘You and Chris broke up once in high school, didn't you?’
        • ‘We broke up a couple of years back and don't talk any more.’
        • ‘‘I was thinking we should break up,’ he stopped and looked at me surprised.’
        • ‘I thought I would be going with my long term boyfriend, but we ended up breaking up after I bought the tickets.’
        • ‘What's the use of going through the elaborate preparations and wedding ceremony, when the couple is going to break up eventually?’
        • ‘I know that when a couple breaks up, they usually don't get back together again.’
        split up, separate, part, stop living together, part company, reach a parting of the ways, become estranged
        View synonyms
      4. 1.4(of a radio or telephone signal) be interrupted by interference.
        • ‘You're breaking up and very crackly.’
        • ‘The radios started to break up, and we lost our encrypted data link.’
        • ‘I found him eventually on an obscure community station that kept breaking up with static and interference from taxi drivers.’
        • ‘You're driving on an empty highway and your radio starts breaking up.’
        • ‘Indoors, more often than not, the signal breaks up when something cuts your invisible tether to the heavens.’
      5. 1.5North American Start laughing uncontrollably.
        ‘the whole cast broke up’
        • ‘There were a couple of times we'd break up laughing when I'd catch someone turning to look at me in a wide shot.’
        • ‘Everybody broke up laughing, according to the police reports - except, of course, Julius.’
        burst out laughing, start to laugh, roar with laughter, dissolve into laughter, shake with laughter, laugh uncontrollably, guffaw, be doubled up, split one's sides, hold one's sides
        View synonyms
      6. 1.6North American Become emotionally upset.
  • break someone up

    • Cause someone to become extremely upset.

      ‘seeing the children again nearly broke her up’
      • ‘Gordon had been crying for a week, but that song broke him up anew.’
      • ‘I cannot understand that, and it just breaks me up terribly.’
      • ‘Obviously he was broken up over the loss of his livelihood, so why was this man laughing?’
      • ‘Like all satirists from Juvenal on he is broken up about the march of folly.’
      • ‘That income helped us make ends meet, but my little sister had to stop taking dance lessons, and she was broken up about it.’
  • break something up

    • 1Cause something to separate into several pieces, parts, or sections.

      ‘break up the chocolate and place it in a bowl’
      ‘he intends to break the company up into strategic business units’
      • ‘They are packed with detail but it doesn't seem overwhelming because the pages are broken up with masses of superb colour photographs, maps, street-by-street diagrams and drawings.’
      • ‘We broke it up into pieces and sold it.’
      • ‘A good idea would be to break it up into sections.’
      • ‘Originally this was one chapter but it got way too long so I'm going to have to break it up into two separate chapters.’
      • ‘This will break the page up for the reader and they will be able to get the information they want simply by scanning your pages.’
      • ‘When it's frozen, bash it gently to break it up into pieces - it should look rough - and put them into tall glasses or pudding bowls.’
      • ‘The supplements are broken up into five sections.’
      • ‘Because the farms were broken up, individuals often found they were given an unproductive section, either with poor soil or without water or with poor access.’
      • ‘I broke it up into four sections.’
      • ‘He plays a shrewd businessman who buys struggling companies, then breaks them up and sells the pieces.’
      1. 1.1Cut something up for scrap metal.
        ‘she was towed to Bo'Ness and broken up’
        • ‘Last month such work has also taken place at MacDuff Shipyard in northern Scotland, where three vessels have been broken up as part of the Scottish Executive's controversial decommissioning scheme.’
        • ‘The barge was not broken up as he thought but is still to be seen on the canals and rivers of Yorkshire and beyond.’
      2. 1.2Disperse or put an end to a gathering.
        ‘police broke up a demonstration in the capital’
        • ‘The police were criticised for not breaking it up and dozens of complaints were made by residents whose sleep was shattered by the music from the rave.’
        • ‘The fight continued until three teachers came in and broke it up.’
        • ‘‘They started to fight and I was trying to break them up and I never saw the knife,’ she said.’
        • ‘Meanwhile, a further protest against the summit was broken up by police.’
        • ‘Four security guards entered the fight and broke it up.’
        • ‘The protests were broken up by police and militias.’
        • ‘‘I'll have to call the police to break it up,’ he answered gravely.’
        • ‘He runs over to the dog fight to try and break it up.’
        • ‘On the second day, the gathering was broken up by the police, but not before the charter was adopted as a guiding document.’
        • ‘Fortunately, there had been teachers to break the fight up before anyone had gotten seriously hurt.’
        disperse, scatter, disband, separate
        View synonyms
      3. 1.3Cause a relationship to dissolve.
        ‘I'm not going to let you break up my marriage’
        • ‘I don't think I could live with myself for being involved in what appears to be a good relationship breaking up.’
        • ‘A move like that would break up the coalition.’
        • ‘Only three per cent said they would consider breaking up with someone who did not earn enough.’
        • ‘Contrary to the impression Will was giving, breaking up with him was not a decision she'd made lightly or willy-nilly.’
        • ‘There was no talk of divorce or of the McGreevy family breaking up.’
        • ‘You'd think they were the ones breaking up.’
        • ‘Jeannine blames him for breaking up her parents ' marriage.’
        • ‘Tim had "a severe, chronic problem with alcoholism" which eventually broke the couple up.’
        • ‘I broke up with Bobby the night I got home.’
        • ‘In case one of the partners was sold to a distant plantation, the relationship usually broke up.’
        put an end to, bring to an end, destroy, wreck, ruin
        View synonyms
      4. 1.4Bring a social event or meeting to an end by being the first person to leave.
        ‘Richard was sorry to break up the party’
        put an end to, bring to an end, destroy, wreck, ruin
        View synonyms
  • break with

    • 1Quarrel or cease relations with (someone)

      ‘he had broken with his family long before’
      • ‘When they decided this, I made my decision to make a break with the National Health Service.’
      • ‘Centrism developed in the 1930s as a decisive obstacle preventing workers from breaking with reformism and Stalinism.’
      • ‘But he quit his official post and broke with the Nationalist party to run as an independent in Taiwan's first presidential poll in 1996.’
      • ‘For the most part this involved a decisive break with old Labour.’
      • ‘He openly broke with Lee when he defined China-Taiwan relations as ‘state-to-state’.’
      • ‘Long historical experience testifies to the need for a break with the Democrats.’
      • ‘The young actress breaks with her boyfriend after their relationship has become routine.’
      • ‘The only way the couple can be together is by breaking with their families, blowing tradition out of the water and turning their backs on everything.’
      • ‘His opponents have warned they may break with the church over the decision.’
      • ‘King Henry VIII was responsible for England's ultimate breaking with the catholic church due to his desire to divorce his current wife and marry another.’
      1. 1.1Act in a way that is not in accordance with (a custom or tradition)
        ‘institutions which are dynamically prepared to break with tradition’
        • ‘The Prime Minister is breaking with years of tradition by touring Britain without the Press.’
        • ‘He broke with tradition when he embarked on a theatrical career.’
        • ‘The Community Games broke with tradition in holding a cross country event where boys and girls competed in the same race.’
        • ‘He broke with tradition when his official portrait was done in photographic form rather than a painting.’
        • ‘These breaks with artistic tradition are appropriate for a man who broke with the most sacred traditions of his time.’
        • ‘The bank is breaking with more than 150 years of history and moving its head office to London.’
        • ‘In this election, he's breaking with tradition and voting for the left.’
        • ‘This year will break with tradition: my first Christmas away from my family.’
        • ‘In ignoring international opinion and their own international obligations, they decisively broke with the past.’
        • ‘The musical broke with tradition: there was no chorus and precious little plot.’


Old English brecan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch breken and German brechen, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin frangere to break.




Main definitions of break in English

: break1break2




Mid 19th century: perhaps from 16th-century brake ‘cage’, later ‘framework’, of unknown origin.