or break·e·ven

[ breyk-ee-vuhn ]

  1. having income exactly equal to expenditure, thus showing neither profit nor loss.

  1. Energy. the stage at which a fission or fusion reaction becomes self-sustaining.

Origin of break-even

An Americanism dating back to 1935–40 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

British Dictionary definitions for break even

break even

  1. (intr, adverb) to attain a level of activity, as in commerce, or a point of operation, as in gambling, at which there is neither profit nor loss

  1. accounting

    • the level of commercial activity at which the total cost and total revenue of a business enterprise are equal

    • (as modifier): breakeven prices

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with break-even


Neither gain nor lose in some venture, recoup the amount one invested. For example, If the dealer sells five cars a week, he'll break even. This expression probably came from one or another card game (some authorities say it was faro), where it meant to bet that a card would win and lose an equal number of times. It soon was transferred to balancing business gains and losses. Novelist Sinclair Lewis so used it in Our Mr. Wrenn (1914). The usage gave rise to the noun break-even point, for the amount of sales or production needed for a firm to recoup its investment. [Late 1800s]

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