[ breyk-throo ]
See synonyms for breakthrough on
  1. a military movement or advance all the way through and beyond an enemy's frontline defense.

  2. an act or instance of removing or surpassing an obstruction or restriction; the overcoming of a stalemate: The president reported a breakthrough in the treaty negotiations.

  1. any significant or sudden advance, development, achievement, or increase, as in scientific knowledge or diplomacy, that removes a barrier to progress: The jet engine was a major breakthrough in air transport.

  2. Medicine/Medical. an infection, disease, disorder, or condition that occurs in an individual despite their having received a vaccine, medication, or treatment: Covid breakthroughs are usually less severe than infections in unvaccinated people, indicating that the vaccine is still doing its job of combating the virus.

  1. constituting a breakthrough: Their products are engineered with breakthrough technology. Critics called it a breakthrough film.

  2. Medicine/Medical. relating to or being an infection, disease, disorder, or condition that occurs as a breakthrough: In the original vaccine trial, 89% of breakthrough infections were with a particular family of virus strains.She experienced disabling breakthrough pain despite the high dose of painkillers she was taking.

Origin of breakthrough

First recorded in 1915–20; noun use of verb phrase break through Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use breakthrough in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for break through

break through

  1. (intr) to penetrate

  2. (intr, adverb) to achieve success, make a discovery, etc, esp after lengthy efforts

  1. a significant development or discovery, esp in science

  2. the penetration of an enemy's defensive position or line in depth and strength

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 breakthrough


Penetrate a barrier or obstruction, as in They broke through the wall to get into the vault, or It won't be long before we break through the code and map all human genes. Used literally for going through a physical barrier since about 1400, this phrase began to be used figuratively in the late 1500s.

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