Main definitions of tear in English

: tear1tear2



  • 1[with object and adverbial] Pull (something) apart or to pieces with force.

    ‘I tore up the letter’
    figurative ‘a nation torn asunder by political pressures’
    • ‘I've read horrifying stories of what happens when a child is aborted, babies being torn to pieces inside the womb, then sucked out, etc etc.’
    • ‘He pulled up another piece of grass and tore it in half down the middle.’
    • ‘Dispose of all receipts securely by tearing them into pieces before throwing them away.’
    • ‘Roughly tear the cos into pieces and place in a large salad bowl.’
    • ‘Shane started to scribble on a piece of tissue, when Max grabbed it and tore it into pieces.’
    • ‘The crew cabin was torn apart in 24 seconds, the report says.’
    • ‘It is the end of the hunt when the animal is torn to pieces that the majority of people do not like.’
    • ‘All the talk about foxes being torn to pieces misses the point, he says.’
    • ‘Two years later I found that note and tore it into tiny pieces.’
    • ‘Grabbing the notes from the bed, she began to tear them into small pieces.’
    • ‘Imagine a bomb exploding next to a body, tearing it into little pieces.’
    • ‘She then helped Nasywa and three other infants touch pieces of paper, tearing them up and pasting them on another sheet.’
    • ‘I will write lines of poetry on the back of bus tickets and envelopes, and then I will tear them into tiny pieces and watch them flutter to the ground.’
    • ‘Out of anger I wanted to tear it into pieces and throw it into trash can, but instead I put it in the drawer of my desk after controlling my temper.’
    • ‘His body was torn apart and pieces of mangled flesh were sent in all directions.’
    • ‘I tear these things into pieces and put them in a pile of little white wads on the table.’
    • ‘The plane was apparently torn apart before it burned, killing the pilot and copilot.’
    • ‘As I watch them writhe in simulated pain, a young punk comes along and grabs some cardboard from the ground and starts tearing it into tiny pieces.’
    • ‘It's only a matter of time before the spell's protection will fade and her human body be torn apart by the force of gravity, so Orphen has to act quickly.’
    • ‘After the beheading, William Wallace's body was torn to pieces.’
    rip up, rip in two, pull apart, pull to pieces, shred
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Remove by pulling forcefully.
      ‘he tore up the floorboards’
      • ‘But Michael said, ‘She'll be fine,’ and he tore off a new wad of cotton.’
      • ‘Rather football followers should delight in the euphoria of Thierry Henry, who tore off his shirt and twirled it joyously around his head.’
      • ‘I tore off part of a page and wrote my name and telephone numbers on it.’
      • ‘Near Kut some 2,500 Republican Guards tore off their boots and helmets before surrendering to the Americans.’
      • ‘When I tore off two sheets, there was no second folding, no second wiping.’
      • ‘While he tore off bits of fish, his family cried pathetically for a bite.’
      • ‘Each night, when Em said good night, she tore off a page so Margaret could keep track of the date.’
      • ‘Baird's diaries make no mention of her, though a few pages have been torn out.’
      • ‘He tore off the filters and stuck them in his ears, just before the shock wave of guitar noise crashed down over the bar.’
      • ‘I wandered out into the hall and found the guy who tore off our ticket stubs sitting next to an empty table with Calla CDs.’
      • ‘So I'm not surprised to hear that they're not planning to kill the lion that tore off the arm of the twenty one year old zookeeper.’
      • ‘As he tore off the pull tab, brown foam gushed out over his hand and down the front of his work togs.’
      • ‘Winds of 120 mph and drenching rain tore off rooftops, hurled debris through the air and sent huge waves crashing into buildings.’
      • ‘Firing several more shots in quick succession he tore off the magazine, pulled another out of his pouch and pushed it into the recess.’
      • ‘He had nearly finished his Classic Comic, only to find that the last few pages had been torn out.’
      • ‘He tore off the wrappings and started to work it… and nothing happened.’
      • ‘‘He tore off one of my diamond earrings so it ripped my ear and blood was pouring down my neck,’ she said.’
      • ‘A couple of Nainotlam volumes are missing and pages have been torn out from another.’
      • ‘His face was dark and angry, and in one motion, he tore off his vest, and pulled me around, letting me see.’
      • ‘Ivan tore off his sleeve and wrapped it around the wound on Joan's arm.’
      snatch, grab, seize, rip, wrench, wrest, pull, pluck
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2[with object]Make a hole or split in (something) by pulling it or piercing it with a sharp implement.
      ‘she was always tearing her clothes’
      • ‘His flannel button town shirt was torn and his jeans sported more holes than Swiss cheese.’
      • ‘The quake was so massive, the ground cracked, houses split, roads were torn.’
      • ‘He still wore green-brown clothes, but they weren't torn, and his fur was golden and his claws much more straight.’
      • ‘Of course what they failed to realise is that a Goth Club is the least likely place for a fight in the world - wouldn't want to break a nail or tear your new PVC outfit would you?’
      • ‘The edges of the hole snagged and tore his robes, scratching him all over.’
      • ‘His pants were also torn and ragged at the bottom and there were various holes and rips in them.’
      • ‘From where he was standing, he could see the cloaking fabric torn by the missile explosion and the falling boulders what seemed like hours ago.’
      • ‘Bones were snapped, skin was torn, and arrows were poking through chests and backs - black arrows.’
      • ‘He had a gaping hole in his abdomen where bone had torn his flesh away.’
      • ‘Teeth tearing my flesh, breaking my heart, devouring my mind, losing myself!’
      • ‘His clothes lay torn a few feet away.’
      • ‘Her black hair got tangled in overhanging vines and brambles tugged at her clothes, tearing them in small rips and holes, and sometimes managing to scratch her across the face.’
      • ‘A bullet tearing the fabric on his shoulder told him that here was not the place to do it.’
      • ‘The plaster and wallpaper were all torn and broken in more places then were normal.’
      • ‘The front of his jersey is always dirty and the knees of his pants are frequently torn.’
      • ‘He examines himself, he has no scars, his clothes aren't torn, his chest has no gaping hole’
      • ‘It also works well for nail repairs, say if you split or tear a nail, to glue it back together.’
      • ‘Be careful not to tear the plastic or break the aluminum strip.’
      • ‘Bulimics can rot their teeth (due to the gastric acid in vomit), tear their oesophagus and rupture their stomach.’
      • ‘Parts of the huts were torn and cracked in some places and it looked as if an army had swept through and annihilated the whole place.’
      rip, ladder, snag
      lacerate, cut to pieces, cut to ribbons, gash, slash, scratch, claw, mangle, mutilate, hack, pierce, stab
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3Make (a hole or split) in something by force.
      ‘the blast tore a hole in the wall’
      • ‘A hole has been torn in the thin veil of ozone just above the Antarctic.’
      • ‘His AC - 47 gunship was hit by enemy fire that tore more than 3,500 holes in the fuselage.’
      • ‘Its thorns latched on and tore holes in our flesh leaving gaps of salty disbelief.’
      • ‘There was now a massive hole torn in the mangled roof of the pod.’
      • ‘The blast tore a hole in the floor of the car under the driver's seat.’
      • ‘The blast at the consulate tore a hole in the ground six feet deep and nine feet wide and set trees on fire.’
      • ‘Her taloned nails dug into to fabric and tore holes in it.’
      • ‘She grabbed a corner and they both pulled, tearing a bigger hole in the pillow.’
      • ‘Marcia let out a little yelp as he let go of the branch too soon and it tore yet another hole in her skirt.’
      • ‘If she doesn't stop the one below her from tearing a greater hole in the floor, she will die.’
      • ‘Cut outside showing Jake's airship firing several lasers into the hole torn into the ship in its initial pass.’
      • ‘She changed into her black System of a Down shirt and a pair of white jeans that had a hole torn into both knees.’
      • ‘Though they came close when they stole a crane and deposited a Volkswagen Beetle in the Guest room by dint of tearing a huge hole in the roof.’
      • ‘You know we'll keep pushing the outside of the envelope until we tear a great big hole in it - it's the American way.’
      • ‘Bullet holes tore only small dents in the walls and Alyssa's grenade left a large black mark in the middle of the wall.’
      • ‘The bolts were not tightened and tore wider holes in the deck with the result that we almost lost the whole top in the water.’
      • ‘We have to pay very careful attention to all the projecting pieces of equipment: we don't want to damage anything or to tear a hole in our spacesuits.’
      • ‘Then there was a single gunshot, and a chair right beside me blew back, a hole torn through it.’
      • ‘A hole torn in the main street was later found to contain two large semi-trailers.’
      • ‘The Pilgrims poured into the great gaping hole Nukurren was tearing in the Utuku center, ululating, their mantles blue and black.’
    4. 1.4[no object]Come apart; rip.
      ‘the material wouldn't tear’
      • ‘It began to tear slowly but not quickly enough as we collapsed onto the wood and rolled across the splintered planks.’
      • ‘Avoid plastic because of discomfort and their tendency to tear quickly, thus decreasing their usefulness.’
    5. 1.5[with object]Damage (a muscle or ligament) by overstretching it.
      ‘he tore a ligament playing squash’
      • ‘He missed four games last season after tearing his posterior cruciate ligament, but he is completely healed.’
      • ‘CB Brian Kelly says he has regained all of the strength he lost when he tore his left pectoral muscle last season.’
      • ‘In a sprain, the ligaments may have been overstretched, twisted or torn.’
      • ‘The shock of the fall had traumatized my spine, causing temporary paralysis, and tearing my back muscles.’
      • ‘Examinations cleared Oliver of extensive damage to his hamstring, but they also revealed that he had torn his anterior cruciate ligament.’
      • ‘Visible scars sometimes form after the skin has been broken, but you can also have scars on your internal organs, for example where you have a torn a muscle or where a cut has been made during surgery.’
      • ‘The more common of these include spraining or tearing one or more ligaments, tearing the meniscus or straining a tendon or muscle.’
      • ‘‘We had a bicep tendon that was torn, ligament tears in the rotator cuff and something in the scapula as well,’ he said.’
      • ‘Sprains can be mild or severe, depending on whether the ligaments were stretched or torn.’
      • ‘Hours before the ride began, he slipped and fell, tearing all of the ligaments in his right hand.’
      • ‘Dilfer will be lost for 4-8 weeks after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.’
      • ‘However, things took a sudden turn for the worse the summer before his senior season when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.’
      • ‘It wasn't until they opened him up that the damage was revealed: Alexander had torn his right pectoral muscle in four different places.’
      • ‘My left quad muscles were completely torn, including the ligaments.’
      • ‘LaFrentz is playing on a reconstructed left knee, rebuilt after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last season.’
      • ‘He tore his biceps muscle on the third play of 2000, and the K.C. running game never recovered.’
      • ‘With enough force, the coracoclavicular ligaments also will be torn, and the deltotrapezial fascia injured or detached.’
      • ‘He accidentally put his right hand through a glass door, tearing tendons and ligaments and putting him out of the sport for eight months, just as his talent was starting to bloom.’
      • ‘He tore his hamstring tendon graft while skiing at 5 months after electrothermal shrinkage.’
      • ‘With the heavy weight used for the barbell buddy curls, a muscle can be torn relatively easily if you don't control the movement.’
  • 2informal [no object, with adverbial of direction] Move very quickly in a reckless or excited manner.

    ‘she tore along the footpath on her bike’
    • ‘Otherwise they start around nine or nine thirty, when I'm woken up by the kids that I live with tearing around the house and shouting.’
    • ‘Already there have been noisy motorbikes tearing along the path (photographs available), but Mr Neale lives well away and so is not exposed to the noise.’
    • ‘I tore along the ditch, as the car was struggling to stay in control.’
    • ‘Through the billowing spray their sails can be seen far out in the deep swell, tearing along at improbable speed and leaping high over the waves.’
    • ‘Zan watches his kids as they tear around the yard.’
    • ‘They say riders tearing along pavements in the area have sent pensioners and mothers, pushing children in prams, sprawling.’
    • ‘She had just waved her off on to the No 66 to Maynooth and was standing against the wall of the Clarence Hotel when the bus came tearing along the pavement.’
    • ‘After applying a little lipstick in front of the mirror quickly, I tore down the hallway, Angelina at my heals.’
    • ‘I was so excited about it that I tore through my house Friday night, looking for the perfect picture from which to paint from.’
    • ‘The young boy from the left wing tore across the library, turning over every table and fire lit lamp as he did so.’
    • ‘Besides churning up the meadows, the vandals have been tearing along paths and dirt tracks.’
    • ‘Gravel sprayed behind him as he tore along the drive, aiming for the great iron gates ahead.’
    • ‘Then you see little Robert on a hyper streak, tearing around the house, only to be calmed by his gran showing him how to load a revolver - one of a stash of six guns.’
    • ‘The three Weimeraners were left trapped indoors as flames tore through the house in Warren Road, Banstead, at around 3pm.’
    • ‘Then the cancer struck and quickly began tearing through his body.’
    • ‘Reckless drivers who tear around the streets of Bradford face having their vehicles seized under new police powers.’
    • ‘Robin and SpellCaster tore across the parking lot in record time.’
    • ‘Yes, it's a slightly bumpy ride on my trusty bike, but I'm grateful that some vehicle drivers can no longer tear along at high speeds.’
    • ‘I don't know how long I had been laying there, but soon I heard a car fly into the drive way and someone tear through the house and upstairs, yelling my name.’
    • ‘Most of the album tears along at a relentless and brutal pace, it is far, far heavier than any of their previous offerings.’
    sprint, race, run, dart, rush, dash, hasten, hurry, scurry, scuttle, scamper, hare, bolt, bound, fly, gallop, career, charge, pound, shoot, hurtle, speed, streak, flash, whizz, zoom, sweep, go like lightning, go hell for leather, go like the wind
    View synonyms
  • 3Be in a state of uncertainty between two conflicting options or parties.

    ‘he was torn between his duty and his better instincts’
    • ‘Joseph was torn between clinging to the ways of his forefathers and accommodating the new spirit of the age that could not long be resisted without violence.’
    • ‘Her daughter, Mary, is torn between Margaret's unhappiness at being out of her home and the advice of the safety experts and authorities who say it is not safe for her to return.’
    • ‘This set-up doesn't sit well with Plath, who is torn between adoring her husband and resenting his success.’
    • ‘Watching it, I was torn between schadenfreude - this couldn't happen to a nicer fella - and toe-curling embarrassment.’
    • ‘As a popularly elected leader, he was torn between the opposing demands of different sections of society, and in the end satisfied nobody.’
    • ‘The undecided are torn between the pros and cons of both candidates.’
    • ‘By ten that morning, I was torn between being totally excited and just plain sad.’
    • ‘Frightened and isolated, his letter shows his confusion as he is torn between denial and acceptance.’
    • ‘But Olga told me that, when she was a child, she was torn between skating or ballet, so I thought I'd give her a chance…’
    • ‘Got there, I was torn between Pride and a small rebellious party called the Gay Mutiny…’
    • ‘Initially Brown was torn between pursuing professional success and his literary interests.’
    • ‘When his best friend gets involved in a street clash, Ricky is torn between past loyalties and his desire to start a new life with his girlfriend.’
    • ‘An idealistic young detective takes an undercover assignment in a theatre but is torn between catching the killer or the thrill of performance.’
    • ‘Marguerite was torn between a fit of laughter, or bursting into tears.’
    • ‘Carroll plays the devoted and over-worked teaching Brother who is torn between the love he feels for his students and despair at his wavering faith.’
    • ‘The family of British hostage Norman Kember was torn between new hope and old fears last night after his kidnappers confirmed he is still alive - but repeated their threat to kill him.’
    • ‘Yet, once she discovers the magnitude of his violent side, she is torn between keeping his secret, or telling his parents.’
    • ‘I was torn between admiration and contempt - the latter because street radicalism often seems poised to collapse into narcissistic posturing.’
    • ‘Confused and upset, she was torn between the wish to adhere to the Australian legal system and the powerful love of her husband.’
    • ‘Tonight was homecoming and she was torn between excitement and dread.’
    torment, torture, rack, harrow, wring, lacerate
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  • A hole or split in something caused by it having been pulled apart forcefully.

    ‘there was a tear in her frock’
    • ‘Although the sheet was rumpled and a tear had split down the side, I recognized it immediately.’
    • ‘If the vitreous is exceptionally adherent to a weak point on the retina, a tear, hole, or detachment may develop.’
    • ‘Holes, rips, tears and flaking paint are no riddles for Mr. Warrier and his team.’
    • ‘The photographs show tears in fabric pulled apart to look like wounds, or pieces of metal depicted so they seem organic.’
    • ‘You were not able to check whether there were any splits or tears in the lead in the parapet gutter?’
    • ‘An emergency laparotomy was performed revealing 6 litres of free blood and a tear in the posterior aspect of the spleen.’
    • ‘Those with severe nearsightedness are more prone to developing retinal tears, holes or detachments.’
    • ‘A jagged tear split his shirt up one side, the faded red fabric parting to reveal the grimy ladder of his ribs.’
    • ‘Brown speckles litter most of the leaves, as do occasional tears and holes.’
    • ‘Dundee had exaggerated the tear, by pulling the horsehair from the glove.’
    • ‘Every few moments he checked the cloud cover for punctures or tears, any hole that might afford him a glimpse.’
    • ‘It looks as if Beltraw went on a rampage here - there are tears and holes in the wall, with a door torn of its hinges.’
    • ‘Flashes and floaters may occur when the vitreous jelly pulls on or tears on the retina.’
    • ‘The shockwave of the nuclear blast ripped apart a new tear in the tectonic plates under Britain.’
    • ‘She watched him slowly stitch the tear, pulling the needle carefully through the fabric.’
    • ‘He was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary where he underwent surgery to repair a tear to a major blood vessel.’
    • ‘When changes due to myopia are present as diagnosed by the eye doctor, the retina is thin and can develop tears, holes and detachment.’
    • ‘She had put on her junky jeans that had holes and tears in it along with her ratty old black T-shirt.’
    • ‘Areas where this has not been done and which are getting trafficked should be checked and tears / holes overlaid and taped with the same material.’
    • ‘I cut out almost two dozen over the next 10 minutes, rolling and stretching where I must, patching a hole, a tear, a crack.’
    rip, hole, split, rent, cut, slash, slit
    ladder, run, snag
    View synonyms


  • tear one's hair out

    • informal Feel extreme desperation.

      ‘dealers are tearing their hair out trying to match customers with cars’
      • ‘It's enough to make any sane person tear their hair out in desperation.’
      • ‘Does this right-side-of-the-brain living, which really isn't the thing you love, have you tearing your hair out?’
      • ‘That's why we're all tearing our hair out over wrong bills.’
      • ‘Even if that does not quieten the little gannets, it may make you feel less like tearing your hair out during the 78 shopping days we have left.’
      • ‘Security shuts the palace down and our producer is tearing his hair out, desperate to test the rocket the Queen is to launch at the start of the fireworks display.’
      • ‘As Alex falls to his knees, tearing his hair out in distress, the questions still remain.’
      • ‘Do you ever find yourselves tearing your hair out in the studio?’
      • ‘If you were the CEO of a big business - say, a movie studio, music company, or multinational bank - you'd have been tearing your hair out at this scene.’
      • ‘Some of the goals will have you tearing your hair out, but therein lies the beauty of the game.’
      • ‘If you are tearing your hair out over the excess expenditure, then fear not, for there is some great news for new couples.’
  • tear someone off a strip (or tear a strip off someone)

    • informal Rebuke someone angrily.

      ‘when he realized it was all a put-up job he tore a strip off Julie’
      • ‘Scores of web sites are dedicated to tearing a strip off VeriSign and Network Solutions Inc.’
      • ‘He will tear a strip off you one moment, and hug you the next.’
      • ‘Might be home earlier than usual though, so feel free to tear me off a strip.’
      • ‘He's tearing a strip off Stephane Henchoz and no wonder.’
      • ‘‘When I got them in at the end of the game I told them I didn't know whether to tear them off a strip or praise them for a job well done,’ admitted confused Celts boss Lee Sinnott.’
      • ‘I was going to tear a strip off them for being unpatriotic when our political corr revealed it was simply their own anti-gay protest because the anthem has been hijacked by the likes of Graham Norton.’
      • ‘There's the part when Borchardt is dumped by his girlfriend, the part where his ex-wife tears a strip off him, the part where Uncle Bill is too weak to get out of the bath on his own.’
      • ‘With the exalted post of new deputy Scottish Labour leader, she is particularly keen not to miss the vote, for fear that chief whip Tom McCabe would tear a strip off her again.’
      • ‘‘I saw her speaking last October and I tore a strip off her,’ she said.’
      reprimand, rebuke, scold, admonish, reprove, upbraid, chastise, chide, censure, castigate, lambaste, berate, lecture, criticize, take to task, read the riot act to, haul over the coals
      tell off, give someone a telling-off, dress down, give someone a dressing-down, bawl out, pitch into, lay into, lace into, blow up at, give someone a piece of one's mind, give someone an earful, give someone a roasting, give someone a rocket, give someone a rollicking
      have a go at, carpet, give someone what for, let someone have it
      chew out, ream out
      bollock, give someone a bollocking
      View synonyms
  • that's torn it

    • informal Used to express dismay when something unfortunate has happened to disrupt one's plans.

      ‘Oops, that's torn it. Costa Rica have scored again’
      • ‘‘Oh crikey, that's torn it,’ she thought, but looked up to find all eyes fixed on a line of grotesques trooping into view.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • tear someone/thing apart

    • 1Destroy something, especially good relations between people.

      ‘a bloody civil war had torn the country apart’
      • ‘Its bloody battle tore the country apart through the 1990s.’
      • ‘Reading John Vidal's article, I thought about people I know, including relatives, whose lives have been torn apart because of the wishes of a ruthless dictator…’
      • ‘And isn't there a risk it would tear your relationship apart?’
      • ‘Today, I am pleased that positive debate has ended much of the historical bickering that was tearing the industry apart and opening the door for other tourism destinations to welcome visitors we wanted here.’
      • ‘Between 1642 and 1646 England was torn apart by a bloody civil war.’
      • ‘For example, in some cases, as $m rises past some optimum, the flow of energy starts to tear the system apart, to destroy order.’
      • ‘It would, perhaps, be an exaggeration to say that the worsening Hindu-Muslim divide in India threatens to tear the country apart, but certainly relations between the country's two major communities are as bad as they have ever been.’
      • ‘I imagine that sort of thing ruins lives, destroys marriages, tears families apart, and so on.’
      • ‘‘Paradise’ is a classic Eyedea track about how being too close in a relationship can tear a couple apart.’
      • ‘The Cypriot refugees' hope for peace reflects the attitude of many of their compatriots now facing the most significant development to affect them since a bloody war tore their country apart in 1974.’
      divide, split, split down the middle, sever, break apart, disunite, rupture
      View synonyms
    • 2Upset someone greatly.

      ‘stop crying—it's tearing me apart’
      • ‘It tears you apart and destroys your spirit.’
      • ‘Leaving this life and Hannah behind - the thought was already hurting him, tearing him apart.’
      • ‘It was tearing her apart to have to choose and to see Liz hurt was the last thing in the world Brett wanted.’
      • ‘Fortunately, her hits were weak and so they never hurt him physically; emotionally he was torn apart.’
      • ‘The fact that Sen would be getting hurt in the end tore him apart.’
      • ‘Strained, muffled cries, sobs that pierced the air and pierced my heart, small whimpers that tore me apart, but from what?’
      • ‘I couldn't be responsible for his harm, I just couldn't: it would tear me apart.’
      • ‘She tore me apart, demeaning me and bruising my ego greatly.’
      • ‘She can't because it would tear her apart to see her parents hurt so much.’
      • ‘Love hurt, it tore you apart, it destroyed lives and hearts and everything.’
    • 3Criticize someone or something harshly.

      ‘Mum tore us apart with a real tongue-lashing’
      • ‘And they will judge us, denounce us and tear us apart again.’
      • ‘All you critics out there better not tear me apart or I'll kill you!’
      • ‘Afterward, half-a-dozen young philosophy students went up to her and, being incredibly nasty and critical, tore her apart for the way she had delivered the talk.’
      • ‘Critic Pauline Kael tore Gimme Shelter apart, charging that the Maysles, along with editor and co-director Charlotte Zwerin, were involved in arranging the entire debacle, and that the resulting film was a sham.’
      • ‘I thought when I ran against him 4 years ago, he just tore me apart.’
      • ‘Our worst fears about the more extreme critics tearing CIA apart when the new administration came in proved groundless.’
      • ‘Please don't tear us apart until after we get back.’
      • ‘Each should stop tearing him apart and respect the rights of the other women.’
      • ‘It makes us feel the disparate forces that tear the man apart.’
      • ‘If you so much as gently criticize him, they'll tear you apart.’
  • tear oneself away

    • [often with negative]Leave despite a strong desire to stay.

      ‘she couldn't tear herself away from the view’
      • ‘If you just can't tear yourself away, consider staying for dinner in the Ahwahnee Dining Room (jackets required).’
      • ‘Finally, she tears herself away from her cartoons long enough to remember our drinks.’
      • ‘I tore myself away from the little screen to make some effort at getting my notes together for my class.’
      • ‘I suppose you can tear yourself away between the end of a panel and the beginning of a tea…’
      • ‘I tore myself away from the desk this morning and went to watch my girls swim.’
      • ‘Reluctantly, I tore myself away from the computer and went into the bedroom.’
      • ‘It was quite a difficult job tearing myself away but I got a bad score on British History so I had a small tantrum and gave up.’
      • ‘So, I finally tore myself away from the newspaper.’
      • ‘I tore myself away for a moment to find the remote control.’
      • ‘It's messy and scary, but you can't tear yourself away.’
  • tear someone/thing down

    • 1Demolish something, especially a building.

      ‘they tore down an old barn for lumber’
      • ‘Old, rundown buildings are torn down to make way for the new.’
      • ‘In the past five years, 15,000 buildings have been torn down in the city, more than 1,000 of them over a century old.’
      • ‘This involves building walls and tearing them down.’
      • ‘Now Croydon was much like I remembered it, only some of the old buildings had been torn down and other buildings put up.’
      • ‘Now, most of the buildings have been torn down, and the place is a sprawling park with 9,000 trees.’
      • ‘Then after the day's filming her team had to rush back to the set they made last week to quickly tear it down, as the building it is housed in is scheduled for demolition today.’
      • ‘Roughly 400 historical buildings have been torn down in the recent past, including beauties like the Hotel ‘Moskwa’.’
      • ‘The structure will incorporate a mansion on that corner which is protected as a historical site, but a four-storey building on Clark will be torn down.’
      • ‘India grows more prosperous, the outside world enters willy-nilly, old buildings are torn down.’
      • ‘In 2003, there was a strong market for old houses, for which foreign buyers were paying 15 000 to 20 000 euro with the idea of tearing them down and building new ones.’
      demolish, knock down, pull down, raze, raze to the ground, flatten, level, bulldoze
      take down, dismantle, disassemble
      View synonyms
    • 2Criticize or punish someone severely.

      ‘they tear a man down and threaten him and then they give him another chance’
      • ‘Anytime there's any threat to their power, they tear people down.’
      • ‘I was so successful that they tore me down because my album was at number 2 instead of number 1.’
      • ‘Third, find a supportive community that validates and uplifts you instead of tearing you down.’
      • ‘They try to build themselves up by tearing other people down, try to make them seem immoral or bad or wrong for being the way God made them.’
      • ‘There's a lot here we don't know but there's some that we've learned in recent weeks that does suggest that they really were out to get Wilson or criticize him or tear him down a bit.’
      • ‘Tonight you said that the politics of lifting people up beats the politics of tearing people down!’
      • ‘I think they decided that rather than tearing him down, they wanted to build him up.’
      • ‘People with blind opinions, following a certain train of thought with no consideration for forming a 3-dimensional argument are just as content to tear another person down because of his or her political or personal beliefs.’
      • ‘Or was he a cruel and egotistical monster who tore people down to build himself up?’
      • ‘They really tore him down so he had no choice but to come out at midnight and do something to repair his image.’
  • tear into

    • 1Attack verbally.

      ‘she tore into him: ‘Don't you realize what you've done to me?’’
      • ‘Nasser Hussain had a reputation for verbally tearing into his bowlers, and Hoggard was one of his victims.’
      • ‘The 20-year-old veered off the script and tore into New Labour, politely but firmly telling the most powerful man in Britain he was wrong, as he sat across the table.’
      • ‘But on August 24, a day before its delegation left for the earth summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, the government tore into the report.’
      • ‘I immediately tried to call Melissa to find out what the scoop was before I tore into Bob who I assumed had planned merry bird adventures instead of working at the store.’
      • ‘The Tracey Review tore into Captain Toohey's reasoning and his explosive conclusions, and this is the report the Government released last night.’
      • ‘And on the back of his authority's top-rating, East Riding Tory leader Stephen Parnaby last night tore into Mr Clarke for misrepresenting the authority.’
      • ‘In a blow to power station owners Parkview, the panel not only warned that the stability of the roofless building was in danger, but tore into the company's plans for it as an exclusive retail and hotel complex.’
      • ‘The St Augustine MP also tore into Government's social sector programmes, particularly those targeting the development of the family.’
      • ‘Liddiment tore into the BBC, accusing it of becoming too populist and warning director-general Greg Dyke and his lieutenants to get their tanks off the ITV lawn.’
      • ‘Dáily Mirror columnist Sue Carroll tore into Jonsson's decision not to name her attacker.’
      attack, assail, hit, strike, let fly at, lay into, lash out at, set about, set upon, fall on, turn on, assault, beat, thrash, pound, pummel, wallop, hammer, pounce on, round on, pelt, drub
      rebuke, reprimand, reproach, reprove, admonish, remonstrate with, chastise, chide, upbraid, take to task, pull up, castigate, lambaste, read someone the riot act, give someone a piece of one's mind, go on at, haul over the coals, criticize, censure
      lace into, sail into, pitch into, let someone have it, get stuck into, paste, do over, knock about, knock around, rough up
      have a go at
      View synonyms
    • 2Make an energetic or enthusiastic start on.

      ‘a jazz trio are tearing into the tune with gusto’
      • ‘Solanki and Bell, who could be competing for the same place once England are back at full strength, tore into the inexperienced seam attack while the fielding restrictions were in place.’
      • ‘Darren Lehmann, coming in at 73 for four, decided attack was the best form of defence, and he tore into Simon Francis, smashing him for 32 from the first nine balls.’
      • ‘Bernard was more patient in his knock, but Breese did not want to return on Monday, and with this in mind, he tore into the Guyana attack and raced his side to their target.’
      • ‘All the while he's hitting the high notes, tears into the three-guitar attack and basically whips the crowd into an intoxicated frenzy.’
      • ‘He struck the ball with ferocity, tearing into the Lincoln attack with relish.’
      • ‘And it was the solid base provided by Nash and his defensive colleagues that enabled City's attackers to tear into Norwich in the second half.’
      • ‘Holding the edge following a 9-8 triumph at Meadowbank a year ago, the Scots tore into attack.’
      • ‘When Willie learns that the other kids beat him up, we see him tearing into the biggest kid, giving him a serious pounding up against a tree while the other kids scatter, and still others, on their bikes, stare in disbelief.’
      • ‘The lights dimmed and the Dolls came out and tore into one of their anthems, ‘Personality Crisis.’’
      • ‘The 33-year-old Kaluwitharana, playing his first Test in two years, justified his selection by tearing into the Kiwi attack with 13 boundaries.’


Old English teran, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch teren and German zehren, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek derein flay. The noun dates from the early 17th century.




Main definitions of tear in English

: tear1tear2



  • A drop of clear salty liquid secreted from glands in a person's eye when they cry or when the eye is irritated.

    ‘a tear rolled down her cheek’
    ‘she burst into tears and stormed off’
    • ‘At that moment, the young woman next to me in the theater burst into tears.’
    • ‘I watched as several of my colleagues panicked or burst into tears.’
    • ‘Then I burst into tears and ran out of the office.’
    • ‘The daughter restrains her tears and continues to look at her mother.’
    • ‘She looked down at the chicks and up at their parents, and burst into tears.’
    • ‘Worse still, when the singer finishes they are often overcome with emotion, as they burst into tears and then hug everyone around them.’
    • ‘And then he burst into tears, asking why everyone hated him so much.’
    • ‘Elaine wiped her tears away as she continued to look at her daughter and Nicholas.’
    • ‘She did not feel she fitted in anywhere and she burst into tears.’
    • ‘She hadn't noticed James in the doorway as she continued to fight her tears.’
    • ‘Keirah only shook her head and tears continued to flow down her cheeks.’
    • ‘I snort, not knowing whether to burst into tears or roll on the ground, howling with laughter.’
    • ‘Sheree continued to hold him tenderly from behind as he continued to sob heart-wrenching tears.’
    • ‘She held the tears back and continued observing, blinking a few times so her vision could clear.’
    • ‘Thus the tears continue as unanswered questions abound.’
    • ‘Sensing his fury, one of his granddaughters burst into tears.’
    • ‘I don't know what happened then, no doubt I burst into tears and if I didn't go looking for mummy she would have come looking for me.’
    • ‘As we stood between rows and rows of dresses that looked more like housecoats, her tears continued to flow.’
    • ‘Catherine burst into tears of relief when she saw her result posted on the college information board, and so did her parents when she phoned them at home in Old Trafford.’
    • ‘And for the first year or two, you burst into tears at times when you run into a reminder of it, and then the Lord kind of heals you.’


  • (of the eye) produce tears.

    ‘the freezing wind made her eyes tear’
    • ‘Soon her eyes were tearing and Kyle had joined in, laughing too.’
    • ‘I twisted my wrist from his grip, eyes tearing for the second time this month, and glared at him murderously.’
    • ‘Marisa and Helaina fell to the ground, eyes tearing… silently laughing-ya know when you laugh so hard nothing comes out?’
    • ‘‘This is probably the last time I will ever see you,’ he said, eyes tearing up.’
    • ‘Gunther's eyes started tearing up after mentioning Angel's name.’
    • ‘Gleason's face twists with pain, his eyes are tearing!’
    • ‘His eyes were tearing, and she could see a wrecked, distressed look in them and could tell he wanted nothing more to do with this.’
    • ‘My eyes were tearing and my mouth was full of little particles.’
    • ‘My face was red, I couldn't breathe and my eyes were tearing.’
    • ‘Lexie bit her lip, eyes tearing up, trying not to scream from the pain.’
    • ‘Her breathing was faster now, and her eyes were tearing up.’
    • ‘My eyes tear up as I remember this hurtful tragedy.’
    • ‘Her face was red and I imagined her eyes were tearing from the pressure.’
    • ‘He released her arm and fell to the ground, eyes tearing up in pain.’
    • ‘I had a tremendous feeling of fear, cold chills, and my eyes were tearing up.’
    • ‘I looked up to find Trischen staring at me, his eyes tearing from the laughter he was futilely trying to keeping in.’
    • ‘Missy's view started to get blurry; she realized her eyes were tearing up.’
    • ‘Mom looks at me, her eyes are tearing up, yet her face is cold.’
    • ‘She hugged her knees close to her chest, her eyes tearing up again.’
    • ‘The mother nodded, eyes tearing, turned away, and took time to regain control before she went back to the bedside.’


Old English tēar, of Germanic origin; related to German Zähre, from an Indo-European root shared by Old Latin dacruma ( Latin lacrima) and Greek dakru.