Definition of “break” - English Dictionary

“break” in English

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uk /breɪk/ us /breɪk/ broke, broken

break verb (DAMAGE)

A2 [ I or T ] to (cause something to) separate suddenly or violently into two or more pieces, or to (cause something to) stop working by being damaged:

The dish fell 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 your phone.
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 best known speed, time, number, etc. previously achieved:

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 down food in the stomach (= cause food to separate into smaller pieces).
I asked her to break her expenses down into food, travel and personal costs.

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break verb (INTERRUPT)

B1 [ T ] to interrupt or to stop something for a short period:

We usually break for lunch at 12.30.
I needed something to break the monotony of my typing job.
The phone rang, breaking my concentration.
UK They decided to break their journey in Singapore.

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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 strong emotions:

Her voice was breaking with emotion as she pleaded for her child's return.


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 short period of advertisements between television programmes:

I'll make us a cup of tea in the next break.

A2 [ C ] a short period of rest, when food or drink is sometimes eaten:

a coffee break
UK 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 regular time in the middle of the morning or afternoon, for school students 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 your regular activity, 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 read your report over (= during) the Christmas break.
I need a break from typing.
give sb a break

to allow someone some time away from their work or regular activities:

I babysit every Friday to give her a break.

informal to stop criticizing 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 name their daughter Jane was a break with family tradition.
make a break also make the break

to stop having a close relationship with someone, especially stop living with them , or to change a course of action that you have had for a long time:

You've been in your job for years - it's time you made a break.
When a relationship ends, it's often best to make a clean/complete break (= suddenly and completely stop seeing each other).

break noun (SPORT)

[ C ] in tennis, a game won 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 defending team gains possession of the ball in its own half and attacks quickly 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 (= escaped quickly).
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 stop working 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 your body, you damage a bone which cracks or separates into pieces:

[ T ] The top women’s downhill skier broke her leg in a freak collision.

[ I/T ] past tense broke /broʊk/ , past participle broken /ˈbroʊ·kən/ If you break a bill of a particular amount of money, you exchange it for smaller bills whose total equals the amount of your bill:

[ 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 brief period:

[ 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 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 become known or cause something to be known, usually to the public:

[ T ] The newspaper reporters who broke the story won the Pulitzer prize.
[ I ] People wept when the news broke that the plant was closing for good.

break verb (MOVE)

[ I ] (of a wave moving toward land) to suddenly change from a rising curl of water, sometimes showing white, to a layer that spreads out on reaching land


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 water main caused a whole section 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 regular activity, or a short period of rest when food or drink is sometimes eaten:

a lunch/coffee break
a break in the heat wave

[ 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 school classes temporarily stop).

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 /breɪk/ us 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 company needs 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 higher level of performance than previously:

break a barrier The company's market share 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 paper money) for bills or coins in smaller amounts:

Can you break a twenty for me, please?
break your back

to work very hard:

He has been breaking his back to get the project finished on time.
break even

ACCOUNTING, FINANCE to have no profit or loss at the end of a business activity because you only make enough money to pay for your costs:

How many copies do we need to sell to break even?
After paying compensation for the damaged goods, we barely broke even.
break ground US

PROPERTY to start building a new building, or to start being built:

break ground on sth The company recently broke ground on its new manufacturing facility in Virginia Beach, VA.
The new medical center is expected to break ground in May.
break new ground

to do or discover something new:

break the bank

informal to cost too much, or spend too much money:

There are insurance policies available that will not break the bank.
There are ways of boosting a traditional business without breaking the bank.

breaknoun [ C ]

uk /breɪk/ us

WORKPLACE a short period 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 regular activity:

the Christmas break
She resumed her career after a two-year break.

a short period when a radio or television programme 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 pricing policy and offering small investors a big price break.
break on sth New customers will be given a break on maintenance fees.

an opportunity for improving a situation, especially one which happens unexpectedly:

Her big break came when she was offered a major part in a new movie.
a break above/below sth

an occasion when levels or figures become slightly higher or lower than the level stated:

Gold prices rallied 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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Would you want to come across a lorry driver on the road who has been driving for 30 hours without a break?
Unfortunately, it is, rather, a form of social break-up that you are proposing to us and, in these conditions, we cannot take the risk.
The continued protection of certain segments of the market - both geographically and sectorally - is not an option either, because this would not break the downward trend.
I had not interrupted him, and must moreover say that it would not have been worth it to break into his disquisition.
We call upon all countries at least to take a break from the ratification procedure and to reflect upon the reasons for the 'no' vote.
We are convinced that initiatives at all levels are required if to break the deadlock which have been reached in negotiations.
Unfortunately, bad people sometimes break laws.
His ambition was to break this vicious circle and to establish amongst the states the same relations founded on equality and arbitration that governed relations between individuals in democratic societies.
Well then, in my opinion, it is extremely important to break this vicious circle, and we can only hope that the resolution will contribute to doing so.
Together, we have to break it.