Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

break

 - definition
 
 
 
Close

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Close

Thesaurus

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary entries. Click on the T button in an entry to review the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

more
verb break pronunciation in British English /breɪk/ 
Word Forms
Close
present tense
I/you/we/theybreak
he/she/itbreaks
present participlebreaking
past tensebroke
past participlebroken
  1. 1
    [transitive] to make something separate into two or more pieces, for example by hitting or dropping it

    People were throwing stones and several windows were broken.

    break something in half/two etc:

    Break the spaghetti in half and put it into the boiling water.

    1. a.
      [intransitive] if something breaks, it becomes damaged and separates into pieces

      Shake the snow off the branches to prevent them from breaking.

      break into:

      The glass slipped from her hand and broke into a dozen pieces.

    2. b.
      [intransitive/transitive] if a bone in your body breaks, or if you break it, it cracks or separates into two pieces

      She broke her leg playing football.

      Older bones tend to break more easily.

    3. c.
      [intransitive/transitive] if a piece of equipment breaks, or if you break it, it stops working correctly because a part of it is damaged

      We used to have a toaster, but it broke.

      Don't play with the camera – you'll break it.

  2. 2
    [transitive] to fail to obey a rule or law

    If you break the speed limit, the penalties are severe.

    break the law:

    I don't care what your reasons are. The fact is you're breaking the law.

    1. a.
      to not do something that you promised or agreed to do

      They have started drilling for oil in the region, breaking an agreement made five years ago.

      Elliot claims that his business partner broke her contract.

  3. 3
    [transitive] to make a hole or cut in the surface of something

    The dog bit his leg, but fortunately didn't break the skin.

    Every so often a fish broke the still surface of the lake.

  4. 4
    [transitive] to destroy someone's confidence, determination, or happiness

    a campaign of violence and intimidation, that eventually broke the opposition's will

    break someone's spirit:

    Twenty years in prison had not broken his spirit.

    1. a.
      [intransitive] to lose your determination or confidence, especially when someone is deliberately trying to make this happen

      She didn't break, even under hours of intense interrogation.

  5. 5
    [intransitive] if important news breaks, it becomes publicly known

    He was back in France when the news broke.

    For some days after the scandal broke, the press could find out nothing about him.

    1. a.
      [transitive] to publish or broadcast a news story for the first time

      The Daily Mirror broke the story on Christmas Eve.

    2. b.
      [transitive] to tell someone bad news in a kind way

      I didn't know how to break it to her.

  6. 6
    [intransitive] to stop what you are doing for a short period of time

    Why don't we break now and meet again tomorrow?

    break for:

    OK, let's break for lunch.

  7. 7
    [transitive] to stop a bad situation from continuing

    Everyone must work together to break the cycle of violence.

    Their goal was to break the monopoly of the state telecoms corporation.

    break a deadlock (=end a situation in which no progress is being made):

    The meeting went on late into the night in an attempt to break the deadlock.

    break someone's hold/grip on something:

    They are determined to break the army's hold on power.

    1. a.
      to end your connection or relationship with someone

      The party is looking to break its ties with the far right.

    2. b.
      to end a quiet or calm period, for example by talking or making a noise

      Hardly a sound broke the sleepy summer silence.

      The peaceful mood was broken by the blare of a police siren.

    3. c.
      to end a long period in which you have refused to talk about something

      Breaking a ten-year silence, he has talked for the first time about his wife's suicide.

phrases

Open Dictionary

chicken raffle

any random process, such as a competition in which a name is drawn from a hat

add a word

Blog

A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog