[broh-kuh n]


past participle of break.


Nearby words

  1. broiler,
  2. broiler house,
  3. broiling,
  4. brokage,
  5. broke,
  6. broken arrow,
  7. broken coal,
  8. broken consort,
  9. broken field,
  10. broken heart

Related formsbro·ken·ly, adverbbro·ken·ness, nounhalf-bro·ken, adjectivewell-bro·ken, adjective



verb (used with object), broke or (Archaic) brake; bro·ken or (Archaic) broke; break·ing.

to smash, split, or divide into parts violently; reduce to pieces or fragments: He broke a vase.
to infringe, ignore, or act contrary to (a law, rule, promise, etc.): She broke her promise.
to dissolve or annul (often followed by off): to break off friendly relations with another country.
to fracture a bone of (some part of the body): He broke his leg.
to lacerate; wound: to break the skin.
to destroy or interrupt the regularity, uniformity, continuity, or arrangement of; interrupt: The bleating of a foghorn broke the silence. The troops broke formation.
to put an end to; overcome; stop: His touchdown run broke the tie. She found it hard to break the cigarette habit.
to discover the system, key, method, etc., for decoding or deciphering (a cryptogram), especially by the methods of cryptanalysis.
to remove a part from (a set or collection): She had to break the set to sell me the two red ones I wanted.
to exchange for or divide into smaller units or components: She broke a dollar bill into change. The prism broke the light into all the colors of the rainbow.
to make a way through; penetrate: The stone broke the surface of the water.
  1. to open or force one's way into (a dwelling, store, etc.).
  2. to contest (a will) successfully by judicial action.
to make one's way out of, especially by force: to break jail.
to better (a given score or record): He never broke 200 in bowling or 80 in golf.
to disclose or divulge personally in speech or writing: He broke the good news to her at dinner.
to solve: The police needed only a week to break that case.
to rupture (a blood vessel): She almost broke a blood vessel from laughing so hard.
to disable or destroy by or as if by shattering or crushing: to break a watch.
to cause (a blister, boil, or the like) to burst, as by puncturing: She broke the blister with a needle.
to ruin financially; make bankrupt: They threatened to break him if he didn't stop discounting their products.
to overcome or wear down the spirit, strength, or resistance of; to cause to yield, especially under pressure, torture, or the like: They broke him by the threat of blackmail.
to dismiss or reduce in rank.
to impair or weaken the power, effect, or intensity of: His arm broke the blow.
to train to obedience; tame: to break a horse.
to train away from a habit or practice (usually followed by of).
Electricity. to render (a circuit) incomplete; stop the flow of (a current).
  1. to release (a story) for publication or airing on radio or television: They will break the story tomorrow.
  2. to continue (a story or article) on another page, especially when the page is not the following one.
Pool. to cause (racked billiard balls) to scatter by striking with the cue ball.
  1. (of a pitcher, bowler, etc.) to hurl (a ball) in such a way as to cause it to change direction after leaving the hand: He broke a curve over the plate for a strike.
  2. (in tennis and other racket games) to score frequently or win against (an opponent's serve).
Nautical. to unfurl (a flag) suddenly by an easily released knot.
to prove the falsity or show the lack of logic of: The FBI broke his alibi by proving he knew how to shoot a pistol.
to begin or initiate (a plan or campaign), especially with much publicity: They were going to break the sales campaign with a parade in April.
to open the breech or action of (a shotgun, rifle, or revolver), as by snapping open the hinge between the barrel and the butt.

verb (used without object), broke or (Archaic) brake; bro·ken or (Archaic) broke; break·ing.

to shatter, burst, or become broken; separate into parts or fragments, especially suddenly and violently: The glass broke on the floor.
to become suddenly discontinuous or interrupted; stop abruptly: She pulled too hard and the string broke.
to become detached, separated, or disassociated (usually followed by away, off, or from): The knob broke off in his hand.
to become inoperative or to malfunction, as through wear or damage: The television set broke this afternoon.
to begin suddenly or violently or change abruptly into something else: War broke over Europe.
to begin uttering a sound or series of sounds or to be uttered suddenly: She broke into song. When they entered, a cheer broke from the audience.
to express or start to express an emotion or mood: His face broke into a smile.
to free oneself or escape suddenly, as from restraint or dependency (often followed by away): He broke away from the arresting officer. She finally broke away from her parents and got an apartment of her own.
to run or dash toward something suddenly (usually followed by for): The pass receiver broke for the goal line.
to force a way (usually followed by in, into, or through): The hunters broke through the underbrush.
to burst or rupture: A blood vessel broke in his nose. The blister broke when he pricked it.
to interrupt or halt an activity (usually followed by in, into, forth, or from): Don't break in on the conversation. Let's break for lunch.
to appear or arrive suddenly (usually followed by in, into, or out): A deer broke into the clearing. A rash broke out on her arm.
to dawn: The day broke hot and sultry.
to begin violently and suddenly: The storm broke.
(of a storm, foul weather, etc.) to cease: The weather broke after a week, and we were able to sail for home.
to part the surface of water, as a jumping fish or surfacing submarine.
to give way or fail, as health, strength, or spirit; collapse: After years of hardship and worry, his health broke.
to yield or submit to pressure, torture, or the like: He broke under questioning.
(of the heart) to be overwhelmed with sorrow: Her heart broke when he told her that he no longer loved her.
(of the voice or a musical instrument) to change harshly from one register or pitch to another: After his voice broke, he could no longer sing soprano parts.
(of the voice) to cease, waver, or change tone abruptly, especially from emotional strain: His voice broke when he mentioned her name.
(of value or prices) to drop sharply and considerably.
to disperse or collapse by colliding with something: The waves broke on the shore.
(of a horse in a harness race) to fail to keep to a trot or pace, as by starting to gallop.
Botany. to mutate; sport.
Linguistics. to undergo breaking.
Billiards, Pool. to make a break; take the first turn in a game.
Sports. (of a pitched or bowled ball) to change direction: The ball broke over the plate.
Horse Racing, Track. to leave the starting point: The horses broke fast from the gate.
Boxing. to step back or separate from a clinch: The fighters fell into a clinch and broke on the referee's order.
to take place; occur.
Journalism. to become known, published, or aired: The story broke in the morning papers.
Horticulture. to produce flowers or leaves.


an act or instance of breaking; disruption or separation of parts; fracture; rupture: There was a break in the window.
an opening made by breaking; gap: The break in the wall had not been repaired.
a rush away from a place; an attempt to escape: a break for freedom.
a sudden dash or rush, as toward something: When the rain lessened, I made a break for home.
a suspension of or sudden rupture in friendly relations.
an interruption of continuity; departure from or rupture with: Abstract painters made a break with the traditions of the past.
an abrupt or marked change, as in sound or direction, or a brief pause: They noticed a curious break in his voice.
  1. an opportunity or stroke of fortune, especially a lucky one.
  2. a chance to improve one's lot, especially one unlooked for or undeserved.
the breaks, Informal. the way things happen; fate: Sorry to hear about your bad luck, but I guess those are the breaks.
a brief rest, as from work: The actors took a ten-minute break from rehearsal.
Radio, Television. a brief, scheduled interruption of a program or broadcasting period for the announcement of advertising or station identification.
Prosody. a pause or caesura.
Jazz. a solo passage, usually of from 2 to 12 bars, during which the rest of the instruments are silent.
Music. the point in the scale where the quality of voice of one register changes to that of another, as from chest to head.
a sharp and considerable drop in the prices of stock issues.
Electricity. an opening or discontinuity in a circuit.
  1. one or more blank lines between two paragraphs.
  2. breaks.suspension points.
the place, after a letter, where a word is or may be divided at the end of a line.
a collapse of health, strength, or spirit; breakdown.
Informal. an indiscreet or awkward remark or action; social blunder; faux pas.
Billiards, Pool. a series of successful strokes; run.
Pool. the opening play, in which the cue ball is shot to scatter the balls.
Sports. a change in direction of a pitched or bowled ball.
Horse Racing, Track. the start of a race.
(in harness racing) an act or instance of a horse's changing from a trot or pace into a gallop or other step.
Bowling. a failure to knock down all ten pins in a single frame.
Boxing. an act or instance of stepping back or separating from a clinch: a clean break.
any of several stages in the grinding of grain in which the bran is separated from the kernel.
Botany. a sport.
Journalism. the point at the bottom of a column where a printed story is carried over to another column or page.
Nautical. the place at which a superstructure, deckhouse, or the like, rises from the main deck of a vessel.
breaks, Physical Geography. an area dissected by small ravines and gullies.
Mining. a fault or offset, as in a vein or bed of ore.

Verb Phrases

break away,
  1. to leave or escape, especially suddenly or hurriedly.
  2. to sever connections or allegiance, as to tradition or a political group.
  3. to start prematurely: The horse broke away from the starting gate.
break back, Tennis. to win a game served by an opponent immediately after the opponent has done so against one's own serve.
break down,
  1. to become ineffective.
  2. to lose control; weaken: He broke down and wept at the sad news.
  3. to have a physical or mental collapse.
  4. to cease to function: The car broke down.
  5. to itemize: to break down a hotel bill into daily charges.
  6. separate (a compound) into its constituent molecules.
  7. Electricity.(of an insulator) to fail, as when subjected to excessively high voltage, permitting a current to pass.
  8. to decompose.
  9. to analyze.
  10. to classify.
  11. to separate into constituent parts: to break down a beef carcass into basic cuts.
break in,
  1. to enter by force or craft: Someone broke in and made off with all the furniture.
  2. to train or instruct; initiate: The boss is breaking in a new assistant.
  3. to begin to wear or use in order to make comfortable: These shoes haven't been broken in.
  4. to interrupt: He broke in with a ridiculous objection.
  5. to run (new machinery) initially under reduced load and speed, until any stiffness of motion has departed and all parts are ready to operate under normal service conditions; run in; wear in.
break in on/upon, to enter with force upon or accidentally interrupt; intrude upon: The visitor opened the wrong door and broke in on a private conference.
break into,
  1. to interpose; interrupt: He broke into the conversation at a crucial moment.
  2. to begin some activity.
  3. to be admitted into; enter, as a business or profession: It is difficult to break into the theater.
  4. to enter by force: They broke into the store and stole the safe.
break off,
  1. to sever by breaking.
  2. to stop suddenly; discontinue: to break off a conversation; to break off relations with one's neighbors.
break out,
  1. to begin abruptly; arise: An epidemic broke out.
  2. Pathology.(of certain diseases) to appear in eruptions.
  3. (of a person) to manifest a skin eruption.
  4. to prepare for use: to break out the parachutes.
  5. to take out of (storage, concealment, etc.) for consumption: to break out one's best wine.
  6. dislodge (the anchor) from the bottom.
  7. to escape; flee: He spent three years in prison before he broke out.
  8. to separate into categories or list specific items: to break out gift ideas according to price range; The report breaks out quarterly profits and losses.
break up,
  1. to separate; scatter.
  2. to put an end to; discontinue.
  3. to divide or become divided into pieces.
  4. to dissolve.
  5. to disrupt; upset: Television commercials during a dramatic presentation break up the continuity of effect.
  6. (of a personal relationship) to end: to break up a friendship; Their marriage broke up last year.
  7. to end a personal relationship: Bob and Mary broke up last month.
  8. to be or cause to be overcome with laughter: The comedian told several jokes that broke up the audience.
break with,
  1. to sever relations with; separate from: to break with one's family.
  2. to depart from; repudiate: to break with tradition.

Origin of break

before 900; Middle English breken, Old English brecan; cognate with Dutch breken, German brechen, Gothic brikan; akin to Latin frangere; see fragile

Related forms
Can be confusedbrake break

Synonym study

1. Break, crush, shatter, smash mean to reduce to parts, violently or by force. Break means to divide by means of a blow, a collision, a pull, or the like: to break a chair, a leg, a strap. To crush is to subject to (usually heavy or violent) pressure so as to press out of shape or reduce to shapelessness or to small particles: to crush a beetle. To shatter is to break in such a way as to cause the pieces to fly in many directions: to shatter a light globe. To smash is to break noisily and suddenly into many pieces: to smash a glass. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for broken

British Dictionary definitions for broken



the past participle of break


fractured, smashed, or splintereda broken vase
imperfect or incomplete; fragmentarya broken set of books
interrupted; disturbed; disconnectedbroken sleep
intermittent or discontinuousbroken sunshine
varying in direction or intensity, as of pitcha broken note; a broken run
not functioninga broken radio
spoilt or ruined by divorce (esp in the phrases broken home, broken marriage)
(of a trust, promise, contract, etc) violated; infringed
overcome with grief or disappointmenta broken heart
(of the speech of a foreigner) imperfect in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciationbroken English
Also: broken-in made tame or disciplined by traininga broken horse; a broken recruit
exhausted or weakened as through ill-health or misfortune
confused or disorganizedbroken ranks of soldiers
breached or openedbroken defensive lines
irregular or rough; unevenbroken ground
bankrupt or out of moneya broken industry
(of colour) having a multicoloured decorative effect, as by stippling paint onto a surface
Southern African informal drunk
Derived Formsbrokenly, adverb


verb breaks, breaking, broke or broken

to separate or become separated into two or more piecesthis cup is broken
to damage or become damaged so as to be inoperativemy radio is broken
to crack or become cracked without separating
to burst or cut the surface of (skin, etc)
to discontinue or become discontinuedthey broke for lunch; to break a journey
to disperse or become dispersedthe clouds broke
(tr) to fail to observe (an agreement, promise, law, etc)to break one's word
(foll by with) to discontinue an association (with)
to disclose or be disclosedhe broke the news gently
(tr) to fracture (a bone) in (a limb, etc)
(tr) to divide (something complete or perfect)to break a set of books
to bring or come to an endthe summer weather broke at last
(tr) to bring to an end by or as if by forceto break a strike
(when intr , often foll by out) to escape (from)he broke jail; he broke out of jail
to weaken or overwhelm or be weakened or overwhelmed, as in spirit
(tr) to cut through or penetratea cry broke the silence
(tr) to improve on or surpassto break a record
(tr often foll by in) to accustom (a horse) to the bridle and saddle, to being ridden, etc
(tr often foll by of) to cause (a person) to give up (a habit)this cure will break you of smoking
(tr) to weaken the impact or force ofthis net will break his fall
(tr) to decipherto break a code
(tr) to lose the order ofto break ranks
(tr) to reduce to poverty or the state of bankruptcy
(when intr , foll by into) to obtain, give, or receive smaller units in exchange for; changeto break a pound note
(tr) mainly military to demote to a lower rank
(intr ; often foll by from or out of) to proceed suddenly
(intr) to come into beinglight broke over the mountains
(intr ; foll by into or out into)
  1. to burst into song, laughter, etc
  2. to change to a faster pace
(tr) to open with explosivesto break a safe
(intr) (of waves)
  1. (often foll by against)to strike violently
  2. to collapse into foam or surf
(intr) (esp of fish) to appear above the surface of the water
(intr) (of the amniotic fluid surrounding an unborn baby) to be released when the amniotic sac ruptures in the first stage of labourher waters have broken
(intr) informal, mainly US to turn out in a specified mannerthings are breaking well
(intr) (of prices, esp stock exchange quotations) to fall sharply
(intr) to make a sudden effort, as in running, horse racing, etc
(intr) cricket (of a ball) to change direction on bouncing
(tr) cricket (of a player) to knock down at least one bail from (a wicket)
(intr) billiards snooker to scatter the balls at the start of a game
(intr) horse racing to commence running in a racethey broke even
(intr) boxing wrestling (of two fighters) to separate from a clinch
(intr) music
  1. (of the male voice) to undergo a change in register, quality, and range at puberty
  2. (of the voice or some instruments) to undergo a change in tone, quality, etc, when changing registers
(intr) phonetics (of a vowel) to turn into a diphthong, esp as a development in the language
(tr) to open the breech of (certain firearms) by snapping the barrel away from the butt on its hinge
(tr) to interrupt the flow of current in (an electrical circuit)Compare make 1 (def. 27)
(intr) informal, mainly US to become successful; make a breakthrough
break bread
  1. to eat a meal, esp with others
  2. Christianityto administer or participate in Holy Communion
break camp to pack up equipment and leave a camp
break ground or break new ground to do something that has not been done before
to overwork or work very hard
break the back of to complete the greatest or hardest part of (a task)
break the bank to ruin financially or deplete the resources of a bank (as in gambling)
break the ice
  1. to relieve shyness or reserve, esp between strangers
  2. to be the first of a group to do something
break the mould to make a change that breaks an established habit, pattern, etc
break service tennis to win a game in which an opponent is serving
break wind to emit wind from the anus


the act or result of breaking; fracture
a crack formed as the result of breaking
a brief respite or interval between two actionsa break from one's toil
a sudden rush, esp to escapeto make a break for freedom
a breach in a relationshipshe has made a break from her family
any sudden interruption in a continuous action
British a short period between classes at schoolUS and Canadian equivalent: recess
informal a fortunate opportunity, esp to prove oneself
informal a piece of (good or bad) luck
(esp in a stock exchange) a sudden and substantial decline in prices
prosody a pause in a line of verse; caesura
billiards snooker
  1. a series of successful shots during one turn
  2. the points scored in such a series
billiards snooker
  1. the opening shot with the cue ball that scatters the placed balls
  2. the right to take this first shot
Also called: service break, break of serve tennis the act or instance of breaking an opponent's service
one of the intervals in a sporting contest
horse racing the start of a racean even break
(in tenpin bowling) failure to knock down all the pins after the second attempt
  1. jazza short usually improvised solo passage
  2. an instrumental passage in a pop song
a discontinuity in an electrical circuit
access to a radio channel by a citizens' band operator
a variant spelling of brake 1 (def. 6)


boxing wrestling a command by a referee for two opponents to separate

Word Origin for break

Old English brecan; related to Old Frisian breka, Gothic brikan, Old High German brehhan, Latin frangere Sanskrit bhráj bursting forth

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 broken
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with broken


In addition to the idioms beginning with break

  • break a leg
  • break away
  • break bread
  • break camp
  • break cover
  • break down
  • break even
  • break ground
  • break in
  • break into
  • break it up
  • break loose
  • break of day
  • break off
  • break one
  • break one's ass
  • break one's back
  • break one's balls
  • break one's fall
  • break one's neck
  • break one's word
  • break out
  • break out of
  • break ranks
  • break someone
  • break someone of something
  • break someone's heart
  • break someone's serve
  • break someone up
  • break the back of
  • break the bank
  • break the ice
  • break the news
  • break the record
  • break through
  • break up
  • break wind
  • break with

also see:

  • get a break
  • give someone a break
  • make a break for it
  • make or break
  • never give a sucker an even break
  • take a break
  • tough break

Also see underbroke.

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