Meaning of “break” - Learner’s Dictionary


verb us uk /breɪk/ past tense broke, past participle broken
Extra Examples
She fell off a horse and broke her neck.The rope broke under the strain.She broke the chocolate in two.Whoever broke the window will have to pay for it.She fell off her bike and broke her arm.

A2 to separate into two or more pieces, or to make something separate into two or more pieces:

The vase fell on the floor and broke.
They had to break a window to get in.
break your arm/leg, etc

A2 to damage a bone in your arm/leg, etc:

Carolyn broke her leg in a skiing accident.

A2 If you break a machine, object, etc, or if it breaks, it stops working because it is damaged:

Who broke the video?
break an agreement/promise/rule, etc

B2 to not do what you should do according to an agreement/promise/rule, etc:

Police stopped him for breaking the speed limit.
break the law

B2 to do something illegal

break the news to sb

to tell someone about something unpleasant that has happened:

Who's going to break the news to his wife?
break the silence

B2 to make a noise, speak, etc and end a period of silence:

The silence was broken by a sudden knock at the door.
break a habit/routine, etc

to stop doing something that you usually do

break a record

B2 to do something faster, better, etc than anyone else:

He broke the world record for the 200m.
REST [ I, T ]

B1 to stop the activity you are doing to have a short rest:

Let's break for five minutes and have a drink.

If news or a story breaks, or if someone breaks it, it becomes known by the public for the first time.


If the weather breaks, it changes suddenly, and usually becomes worse.


When a boy's voice breaks, it becomes deeper and sounds like a man's voice.

WAVE [ I ]

When a wave breaks, it reaches its highest point as it moves towards the land, and then becomes flat and white.


If a storm breaks, it starts suddenly.

break free/loose

to suddenly escape or become separate from something:

The prisoner broke free while the guards weren't looking.
dawn/day breaks

When dawn (= early morning)/day breaks, the sky becomes lighter because the sun is rising:

Dawn was breaking and the birds were singing.
→ See also break new ground , break sb's heart , break the ice , break the mould , break ranks

(Definition of “break verb” from the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)