break - definition and synonyms


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present tense
present participlebreaking
past tensebroke
past participlebroken
  1. 1

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    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.

     Synonyms and related words
    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.

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

      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.

     Synonyms and related words
  4. 4
    [transitive] to destroy someone’s confidence, determination, or happiness
    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. 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.

  8. 8
    [intransitive] when day breaks, it starts to get light in the morning

    The day broke grey and dull.

  9. 10
    [intransitive] if a boy’s voice breaks, it becomes deeper and he starts to sound like a man
     Synonyms and related words
    1. a.
      if someone’s voice breaks, they become unable to speak clearly, usually because they are upset
       Synonyms and related words
  10. 11
    [intransitive] if waves break, they reach their highest point and start to fall
  11. 12
    [transitive] if someone breaks a code (=a secret way of writing), they learn how to understand it
  12. 13
    [intransitive] mainly literary if someone’s fever breaks, it starts to become less severe
See also