1. a device for slowing or stopping a vehicle or other moving mechanism by the absorption or transfer of the energy of momentum, usually by means of friction.
  2. brakes, the drums, shoes, tubes, levers, etc., making up such a device on a vehicle.
  3. anything that has a slowing or stopping effect.
  4. Also called brakeman. a member of a bobsled team who operates the brake.
  5. Also called breaker. Textiles. a tool or machine for breaking up flax or hemp, to separate the fiber.
  6. Also called press brake. a machine for bending sheet metal to a desired shape.
  7. Obsolete. an old instrument of torture.
verb (used with object), braked, brak·ing.
  1. to slow or stop by means of or as if by means of a brake.
  2. to furnish with brakes.
  3. to process (flax or hemp) by crushing it in a brake.
verb (used without object), braked, brak·ing.
  1. to use or run a brake.
  2. to stop or slow upon being braked.
  3. to run a hoisting machine.

Origin of brake

1400–50; late Middle English < Middle Dutch, Middle Low German; akin to break
Related formsbrake·less, adjective

Synonyms for brake


verb Archaic.
  1. simple past tense of break. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for braking

Contemporary Examples of braking

Historical Examples of braking

  • The ship drove down toward the planet, braking fiercely now.


    Lester del Rey

  • Telemeter control from Alpine fired the first braking rockets.

  • It was too high, moving too fast despite the lavish waste of braking power.

  • All at once his hands and mind were busy with the braking rockets, dials, meters.

  • Walt's car, braking shrilly, hurtled past her and was lost in the night.

    Earth Alert!

    Kris Neville

British Dictionary definitions for braking


    1. (often plural)a device for slowing or stopping a vehicle, wheel, shaft, etc, or for keeping it stationary, esp by means of frictionSee also drum brake, disc brake, hydraulic brake, air brake, handbrake
    2. (as modifier)the brake pedal
  1. a machine or tool for crushing or breaking flax or hemp to separate the fibres
  2. Also called: brake harrow a heavy harrow for breaking up clods
  3. short for brake van
  4. short for shooting brake
  5. an open four-wheeled horse-drawn carriageAlso spelt: break
  6. an obsolete word for rack 1 (def. 4)
  1. to slow down or cause to slow down, by or as if by using a brake
  2. (tr) to crush or break up using a brake
Derived Formsbrakeless, adjective

Word Origin for brake

C18: from Middle Dutch braeke; related to breken to break


  1. an area of dense undergrowth, shrubs, brushwood, etc; thicket

Word Origin for brake

Old English bracu; related to Middle Low German brake, Old French bracon branch


  1. another name for bracken (def. 1) See also rock brake


  1. archaic, mainly biblical a past tense of 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

Word Origin and History for braking



mid-15c., "instrument for crushing or pounding," from Middle Dutch braeke "flax brake," from breken "to break" (see break (v.)). The word was applied to many crushing implements and to the ring through the nose of a draught ox. It was influenced in sense by Old French brac, a form of bras "an arm," thus "a lever or handle," which was being used in English from late 14c., and applied to "a bridle or curb" from early 15c. One or the other or both took up the main modern meaning of "stopping device for a wheel," first attested 1772.



kind of fern, early 14c.; see bracken.



"to apply a brake to a wheel," 1868, from brake (n.1). Earlier, "to beat flax" (late 14c.). Related: Braked; braking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper