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break someone of something

Cause to discontinue a habit or practice, as in Mom tried for years to break Betty of biting her nails. The Oxford English Dictionary cites a quotation from W. Wotton's History of Rome (1701): “He ... broke them of their warm Baths,” which presumably refers to breaking Romans of their custom of bathing regularly. Today we are more apt to break someone of a bad habit. [Early 1600s]

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