Did you know?

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

break - definition and synonyms

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.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

noun     break pronunciation in British English
Word Forms
  1. 1
    [countable] a short period of time when you stop what you are doing so that you can eat or rest

    Doctors and nurses worked 18 hours without a break.

    break from:

    A short nap can provide a much needed break from daily stress.

    have/take a break:

    We decided to take a short break.

    a lunch/tea/coffee etc break:

    They usually went shopping in their lunch break.

    1. a.
      [countable] [usually singular] a rest from the work or job that you usually do

      I could do with a break (=I need one).

      break from:

      The art class is the only time I can get a break from the kids.

      have/take a break (from):

      I decided to take a break from college and do some travelling.

    2. b.
      [countable] a short holiday

      a weekend break for two in Florence

    3. c.
      [countable] [usually singular] British a period of time when most people do not go to work

      the Easter/Christmas break

    4. d.
      [uncountable] British a period of time between lessons when students and teachers can eat, rest, or play. The American word is recess

      They always play together during break.

  2. 2
    [countable] a pause between television or radio programmes, especially when advertisements are broadcast

    We’ll be back after the break.

    1. a.
      [singular] British informal a pause in a sports match

      the half-time break

  3. 3
    [countable] a time at which one thing ends completely and a new thing begins
    break with:

    a break with the past

    make the break (=finally leave a job, relationship etc):

    a story about a woman who makes the break from an abusive relationship

    See also clean
  4. 4
    [countable] a space in something such as a line of traffic

    He waited for ages for a break in the traffic.

  5. 5
    [countable] a place where something is broken

    There was a small break at the corner of the frame.

  6. 6
    [countable] [usually singular] an opportunity that helps you to be successful

    a lucky break

    Kiefer’s big break came with the film Stand By Me.

  7. 7
    [countable] [usually singular] a sudden lack of control in someone’s voice that shows they are upset
  8. 8
    [countable] in tennis, a game that someone wins when their opponent is serving
    Synonyms and related words
  9. 9
    [countable] in snooker or billiards, a period of time when a player continues to hit the ball successfully
  • Facebook
  • Twitter


a lifestyle focussing on simple pleasures such as comfort and cosiness in the home, and spending time with friends and family

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

add a word


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
Macmillan learn live love play