break ranks

Fall out of line or into disorder; also, fail to conform, deviate. For example, The recruits were warned that they must not break ranks, or Harry was told to adhere to the party platform and not break ranks. This idiom uses rank in the sense of “soldiers drawn up in line,” and the term originally referred to their falling into disarray. The figurative usage dates from the mid-1800s.

Words Nearby break ranks

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

How to use break ranks in a sentence

  • The butts of their rifles crashed to the floor with precision, and they were allowed to break ranks for a brief rest.

    The Clansman | Thomas Dixon
  • He and Longstreet won't get through Thoroughfare until to-morrow—break ranks!

    The Long Roll | Mary Johnston
  • After inspection the troop should break ranks and hold a short business meeting.

  • An order to the men to break ranks and take cover might have altered the sad event entirely.

    How Canada was Won | F. S. Brereton
  • This is a signal for team A to stop whistling, break ranks and run back to their goal line.