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Meaning of “break” in the English Dictionary

"break" in British English

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uk   /breɪk/  us   /breɪk/ (broke, broken)
  • break verb (DAMAGE)

A2 [I or T] to (​cause something to) ​separatesuddenly or ​violently into two or more ​pieces, or to (​cause something to) ​stopworking by being ​damaged: The ​dishfell to the ​floor and broke. Charles is always breaking things. She ​fell and broke her ​arm (= broke the ​bone in her ​arm). I ​dropped the ​vase and it broke into ​pieces. I ​think I've broken ​yourphone. I ​picked it up and the ​handle broke off. We ​heard the ​sound of breaking ​glass.

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  • break verb (END)

B2 [I or T] to ​destroy or end something, or to come to an end: Eventually someone ​spoke, breaking the ​silence. She ​laughed and that broke the ​tension. The ​enemy were ​unable to break the code (= ​understand it and so make it ​useless). Outside ​workers were ​brought in in an ​attempt to break (= end) the strike.
break a/the record
B2 to do something ​better than the ​bestknownspeed, ​time, ​number, etc. ​previouslyachieved: She broke the ​record for the 5,000 ​metres.

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  • break verb (NOT OBEY)

B2 [T] to ​fail to ​keep a ​law, ​rule, or ​promise: He didn't ​know he was breaking the ​law (= doing something ​illegal). She broke her promise/word to me (= did not do what she ​promised she would).

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  • break verb (DIVIDE)

[I or T, + adv/prep] to (​cause something to) ​divide into two or more ​parts or ​groups: These ​enzymes break downfood in the ​stomach (= ​causefood to ​separate into ​smallerpieces). I ​asked her to break her ​expenses down intofood, ​travel and ​personalcosts.

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  • break verb (INTERRUPT)

B1 [T] to ​interrupt or to ​stop something for a ​shortperiod: We usually break for ​lunch at 12.30. I ​needed something to break the ​monotony of my ​typingjob. The ​phonerang, breaking my concentration.UK They ​decided to break ​their journey in Singapore.

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  • break verb (BECOME KNOWN)

C2 [I or T] to ​becomeknown or to make something ​becomeknown: When the scandal broke (= came to the public's ​attention), the ​CEOresignedimmediately. It was the ​localnewspaper that first broke the story (= told the ​public).
  • break verb (VOICE)

[I] When a boy's ​voice breaks it ​begins to ​sound like a man's: His ​voice broke when he was 13.
[I] If someone's ​voice breaks, it ​changes because of ​strongemotions: Her ​voice was breaking withemotion as she ​pleaded for her child's ​return.
  • break verb (TENNIS)

break serve
(in ​tennis) to ​win a ​game in which another ​player is serving (= ​hitting the ​ball first): Nadal broke Cilic's ​serve in the second set.


uk   /breɪk/  us   /breɪk/
  • break noun (INTERRUPTION)

[C] an ​interruption: Finally there was a break in the ​rain and we went out.
[C] mainly UK the ​shortperiod of ​advertisements between ​televisionprogrammes: I'll make us a ​cup of ​tea in the next break.
A2 [C] a ​shortperiod of ​rest, when ​food or ​drink is sometimes ​eaten: a ​coffee breakUK a ​tea break a ​lunch/​dinner break We'll take another break at 3.30. They ​worked through the ​night without a break. Do you usually take a morning/​afternoon break?
[U] mainly UK (also break time) the ​regulartime in the ​middle of the ​morning or ​afternoon, for ​schoolstudents to ​talk or ​play, and sometimes have ​food or ​drink: We were ​talking about it at break.
B1 [C] a ​time away from ​work or ​yourregularactivity, or a ​holiday: Take a ​couple of ​weeks off - you need a break. How ​long is the ​Christmas break this ​year? We ​decided to have a short/​spring/​winter/​weekend break in Paris. I'll ​readyourreport over (= during) the ​Christmas break. I need a break from typing.
give sb a break
to ​allow someone some ​time away from ​theirwork or ​regularactivities: I ​babysit every ​Friday to give her a break.
informal to ​stopcriticizing or ​annoying someone, or ​behaving in an ​unpleasant way: Give her a break - she's only a ​child and she didn't ​mean any ​harm.

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  • break noun (END)

[C] the end of a ​relationship, ​connection, or way of doing something: Their ​decision to not ​nametheirdaughter Jane was a break withfamily tradition.
make a break (also make the break)
to ​stop having a ​closerelationship with someone, ​especiallystopliving with them , or to ​change a ​course of ​action that you have had for a ​longtime: You've been in ​yourjob for ​years - it's ​time you made a break. When a ​relationshipends, it's often ​best to make a clean/​complete break (= ​suddenly and ​completelystopseeing each other).
  • break noun (SPORT)

[C] in ​tennis, a ​gamewon by the ​player who was not ​serving (= ​hitting the ​ball first): Murray must get another break (of ​serve) to ​win.
[C] in snooker and billiards, the ​number of ​points that a ​player gets during one ​turn at ​hitting the ​balls
[S] in ​football, an ​occasion when a ​defendingteamgainspossession of the ​ball in ​its own ​half and ​attacksquickly into the ​opposing team's ​half
  • break noun (ESCAPE)

make a break (from/for)
to ​escape from/towards ​somewhere or something, often by ​force: A ​group of ​prisoners made a break from the ​jail a few ​years back. The ​cat made a break for the ​door. When he ​let go, I made a break for it (= ​escapedquickly).
See also
  • break noun (MORNING)

break of day [U] literary
the ​time when the ​sunrises in the ​morning: We set out at break of ​day.
See also
(Definition of break from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"break" in American English

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 us   /breɪk/
  • break verb (DAMAGE)

[I/T] (past tense broke  /broʊk/ , past participle broken  /ˈbroʊ·kən/ ) to ​separate something ​suddenly or ​violently into two or more ​pieces, or to ​stopworking by being ​damaged: [T] I broke a ​glass in the ​kitchen and have to ​vacuum it up. [I] Our ​toaster broke, so we have to get a new one. [M] The ​police broke the ​door down to get into the ​apartment.
[I/T] (past tense broke  /broʊk/ , past participle broken  /ˈbroʊ·kən/ ) If you break a ​part of ​yourbody, you ​damage a ​bone which ​cracks or separates into ​pieces: [T] The ​top women’s ​downhillskier broke her ​leg in a ​freakcollision.
[I/T] (past tense broke  /broʊk/ , past participle broken  /ˈbroʊ·kən/ ) If you break a ​bill of a ​particularamount of ​money, you ​exchange it for ​smallerbills whose ​totalequals the ​amount of ​yourbill: [T] Can you break a $50 ​bill for me?
  • break verb (INTERRUPT)

[I/T] (past tense broke  /broʊk/ , past participle broken  /ˈbroʊ·kən/ ) to ​interrupt or to ​stop something for a ​briefperiod: [I] Let’s ​continue for another ten ​minutes and then break for ​lunch.
  • break verb (END)

[I/T] (past tense broke  /broʊk/ , past participle broken  /ˈbroʊ·kən/ ) to end or ​change something, or to ​stop: [I] Cheryl ​found the ​habit of ​drinking a lot of ​coffee hard to break. [T] She broke the ​record for the 5000 ​meters (= she did ​better than the ​record). [T] They ​worked hard to break the ​deadlock in the ​negotiations.
  • break verb (SEPARATE)

[I/T] (past tense broke  /broʊk/ , past participle broken  /ˈbroʊ·kən/ ) to ​escape or ​separate from something or someone ​suddenly: [I always + adv/prep] The ​dog broke ​free and ​ran into ​traffic. [I always + adv/prep] The ​handle on the ​teapot just broke off.
  • break verb (NOT OBEY)

[T] (past tense broke  /broʊk/ , past participle broken  /ˈbroʊ·kən/ ) to ​fail to ​obey or ​follow a ​law, ​rule, or ​promise: He didn’t ​know he was breaking the ​law. My ​daughter got ​sick and I had to break my ​appointment.
  • break verb (MAKE KNOWN)

[I/T] (past tense broke  /broʊk/ , past participle broken  /ˈbroʊ·kən/ ) to ​becomeknown or ​cause something to be ​known, usually to the ​public: [T] The ​newspaperreporters who broke the ​storywon the Pulitzer ​prize. [I] People ​wept when the ​news broke that the ​plant was ​closing for good.
  • break verb (MOVE)

[I] (of a ​wavemoving toward ​land) to ​suddenlychange from a ​risingcurl of ​water, sometimes ​showingwhite, to a ​layer that ​spreads out on ​reachingland


 us   /breɪk/
  • break noun (OPPORTUNITY)

[C] an ​opportunity for ​improving a ​situation, esp. one that ​happens unexpectedly: Getting that first ​job was a lucky break.
  • break noun (DAMAGED PLACE)

[C] a ​place in the ​surface of something where it has ​cracked from ​damage: A break in a ​watermain caused a ​wholesection of the ​city to ​flood.
[C] A break in a ​bone is a ​place where it has ​cracked or separated into ​pieces.
  • break noun (INTERRUPTION)

[C] an ​interruption, esp. in a ​regularactivity, or a ​shortperiod of ​rest when ​food or ​drink is sometimes ​eaten: a ​lunch/​coffee break a break in the ​heatwave
[C] A break is also a ​time away from ​work or ​school, or a ​vacation: I went ​skiing in the ​mountains during ​spring break (= ​period in early ​spring when ​schoolclassestemporarilystop).
  • break noun (EARLY MORNING)

[U] a ​time early in the ​morning when the ​sun is ​rising: We set out at the break of ​day.
(Definition of break from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"break" in Business English

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breakverb [T]

uk   us   /breɪk/ (broke, broken)
to do something that is against a ​law, or not do something that you should do or have promised to do: break the law He didn't know he was breaking the ​law when he gave her the ​information. break a promise/​agreement/​contract
to ​bring something to an end, especially suddenly or forcefully: The ​companyneeds to break the ​spiral of ​borrowing and ​spending.break a strike Outside ​workers were ​hired in an attempt to break the ​strike.
to ​reach a ​higherlevel of ​performance than previously: break a barrier The company's ​marketshare had broken the 25% ​barrier for the first ​time.break a record Yesterday Roger broke the ​record for monthly ​sales.
US informal to ​exchange a large bill (= ​piece of ​papermoney) for ​bills or ​coins in ​smalleramounts: Can you break a twenty for me, please?
break your back
to ​work very hard: He has been breaking his back to get the ​projectfinished on ​time.
break even
ACCOUNTING, FINANCE to have no ​profit or ​loss at the end of a ​businessactivity because you only make enough ​money to ​pay for your ​costs: How many ​copies do we need to ​sell to break ​even? After ​payingcompensation for the ​damagedgoods, we barely broke ​even.
break ground US
PROPERTY to ​startbuilding a new ​building, or to ​start being ​built: break ground on sth The ​company recently broke ​ground on its new ​manufacturingfacility in Virginia Beach, VA. The new ​medicalcenter is expected to break ​ground in May.
break new ground
to do or discover something new: The ​marketingcampaign on ​socialnetworkingsites is breaking new ​ground.
break the bank
informal to ​cost too much, or ​spend too much ​money: There are ​insurancepoliciesavailable that will not break the ​bank. There are ways of ​boosting a traditional ​business without breaking the ​bank.

breaknoun [C]

uk   us   /breɪk/
WORKPLACE a ​shortperiod of rest, when ​food or drink is sometimes taken: a coffee/tea break Where do you go in your lunch break?have/take a break We'll ​work through till ​lunch but take a ​short break at 11 o'clock.
a ​time away from ​work or from a ​regularactivity: the Christmas break She ​resumed her ​career after a two-year break.
a ​shortperiod when a radio or ​televisionprogramme is interrupted by announcements or ​advertisements: We'll be ​right back after the break.
US a ​reduction in the ​amount that has to be ​paid for something: They are ​changing their ​pricingpolicy and ​offeringsmallinvestors a ​big price break.break on sth New ​customers will be given a break on ​maintenancefees.
an ​opportunity for ​improving a ​situation, especially one which ​happens unexpectedly: Her big break came when she was ​offered a ​majorpart in a new movie.
a break above/below sth
an occasion when ​levels or ​figures become slightly ​higher or ​lower than the ​levelstated: Gold ​pricesrallied again, a ​move which ​traders said could foreshadow another break above $400 an ​ounce.
(Definition of break from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
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