[broh-kuh n]
See more synonyms for broken on
  1. reduced to fragments; fragmented.
  2. ruptured; torn; fractured.
  3. not functioning properly; out of working order.
  4. Meteorology. (of sky cover) being more than half, but not totally, covered by clouds.Compare scattered(def 4).
  5. changing direction abruptly: The fox ran in a broken line.
  6. fragmentary or incomplete: a broken ton of coal weighing 1,500 pounds.
  7. infringed or violated: A broken promise is a betrayal of trust.
  8. interrupted, disrupted, or disconnected: After the phone call he returned to his broken sleep.
  9. weakened in strength, spirit, etc.: His broken health was due to alcoholism.
  10. tamed, trained, or reduced to submission: The horse was broken to the saddle.
  11. imperfectly spoken, as language: She still speaks broken English.
  12. spoken in a halting or fragmentary manner, as under emotional strain: He uttered a few broken words of sorrow.
    1. (of a relationship) split apart; not intact: a broken marriage.
    2. (of a family) disunited or divided by the prolonged or permanent absence of a parent, usually due to divorce or desertion: a child from a broken home; broken families.
  13. not smooth; rough or irregular: We left the plains and rode through broken country.
  14. ruined; bankrupt: the broken fortunes of his family.
  15. Papermaking, Printing. a quantity of paper of less than 500 or 1000 sheets.
Related formsbro·ken·ly, adverbbro·ken·ness, nounhalf-bro·ken, adjectivewell-bro·ken, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for brokenness

Contemporary Examples of brokenness

Historical Examples of brokenness

  • Oh the brokenness that was amongst them in the flowings of life!

    George Fox

    George Fox

  • One special want of the present moment is brokenness of spirit.

    The All-Sufficiency of Christ

    Charles Henry Mackintosh

  • The foolishness would not be so noticeable if the Brokenness were not so hideous and genuine and actual and matter-of-course.

    I, Mary MacLane

    Mary MacLane

  • It is this brokenness, and continued breaking down, that is expressed by the word contrition.

    Holy in Christ

    Andrew Murray

  • There is a brokenness in the utterance which makes it difficult to translate, but which is touchingly natural.

British Dictionary definitions for brokenness


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



late 14c., past participle adjective from break (v.). Broken record in reference to someone continually repeating the same thing is from 1944, in reference to scratches on records that cause the needle to jump back and repeat.

When Britain's Minister of State, Selwyn Lloyd[,] became bored with a speech by Russia's Andrei Vishinsky in UN debate, he borrowed a Dizzy Gillespie bebop expression and commented: "Dig that broken record." While most translators pondered the meaning, a man who takes English and puts it into Chinese gave this translation: "Recover the phonograph record which you have discarded." ["Jet," Oct. 15, 1953]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper