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[burst] /bɜrst/
verb (used without object), burst or, often bursted, bursting.
to break, break open, or fly apart with sudden violence:
The bitter cold caused the pipes to burst.
to issue forth suddenly and forcibly, as from confinement or through an obstacle:
Oil burst to the surface. He burst through the doorway.
to give sudden expression to or as if to emotion:
to burst into applause; to burst into tears.
to be extremely full, as if ready to break open:
The house was bursting with people.
to appear suddenly; become visible, audible, evident, etc., all at once:
The sun burst through the clouds.
verb (used with object), burst or, often bursted, bursting.
to cause to break or break open suddenly and violently:
He burst the balloon.
to cause or suffer the rupture of:
to burst a blood vessel.
to separate (the parts of a multipart stationery form consisting of interleaved paper and carbon paper).
an act or instance of bursting.
a sudden, intense display, as of activity, energy, or effort:
The car passed us with a burst of speed.
a sudden expression or manifestation, as of emotion:
a burst of affection.
a sudden and violent issuing forth:
a burst of steam from the pipe.
  1. the explosion of a projectile, especially in a specified place:
    an air burst.
  2. a rapid sequence of shots fired by one pull on the trigger of an automatic weapon:
    A burst from the machine gun shattered all the windows.
the result of bursting; breach; gap:
a burst in the dike.
a sudden appearance or opening to view.
burst at the seams, to be filled to or beyond normal capacity:
This room will be bursting at the seams when all the guests arrive.
Origin of burst
before 1000; Middle English bersten, bursten, Old English berstan (past. plural burston), cognate with Old High German brestan (German bersten), Old Norse bresta; akin to break
Related forms
nonbursting, adjective, noun
unburst, adjective
Can be confused
bust, burst (see usage note at bust)
1. crack, explode. 6. rend, tear. 10. spurt. 11, 12. outbreak.
Usage note
See bust2. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for burst at the seams


verb bursts, bursting, burst
to break or cause to break open or apart suddenly and noisily, esp from internal pressure; explode
(intransitive) to come, go, etc, suddenly and forcibly: he burst into the room
(intransitive) to be full to the point of breaking open
(intransitive) to give vent (to) suddenly or loudly: to burst into song
to cause or suffer the rupture of: to burst a blood vessel
a sudden breaking open or apart; explosion
a break; breach; rupture
a sudden display or increase of effort or action; spurt: a burst of speed
a sudden and violent emission, occurrence, or outbreak: a burst of heavy rain, a burst of applause
a volley of fire from a weapon or weapons
broken apart; ruptured: a burst pipe
Derived Forms
burster, noun
Word Origin
Old English berstan; related to Old Norse bresta, Old Frisian bersta, Old High German brestan; compare break
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for burst at the seams



Old English berstan (intransitive) "break suddenly, shatter under pressure" (class III strong verb; past tense bærst, past participle borsten), from a West Germanic metathesis of Proto-Germanic *brestanan (cf. Old Saxon brestan, Old Frisian bersta, Middle Dutch berstan, Low German barsten, Dutch barsten, Old High German brestan, German bersten "to burst"), from PIE root *bhreus- "to burst, break, crack" (see bruise (v.)).

The forms reverted to brest- in Middle English from influence of Old Norse brestan/brast/brosten, from the same Germanic root, but it was re-metathesized late 16c. and emerged in the modern form, though brast was common as past tense through 17c. and survives in dialect.

Of extended or distended surfaces from 1530s. Figuratively, in reference to being over-full of excitement, anticipation, etc., from 1630s. Transitive sense ("to cause to break") is from late 13c. Meaning "to issue suddenly and abundantly" is from c.1300 (literal), mid-13c. (figurative). Meaning "break into sudden activity or expression" is from 1680s. Related: Bursting.



1610s, "act of bursting," from burst (v.). Meaning "a spurt" (of activity, etc.) is from 1862. The earlier noun berst (early Middle English) meant "damage, injury, harm."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with burst at the seams

burst at the seams

Be filled to or beyond normal capacity. For example, On her wedding day the church was bursting at the seams , or That was a wonderful meal, but I'm bursting at the seams . This expression alludes to rupturing the seams of a garment too tight for the wearer and is generally used hyperbolically. Also see come apart at the seams
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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