verb (used without object), burst or, often, burst·ed, burst·ing.

verb (used with object), burst or, often, burst·ed, burst·ing.



    burst at the seams, to be filled to or beyond normal capacity: This room will be bursting at the seams when all the guests arrive.

Origin of burst

before 1000; Middle English bersten, bursten, Old English berstan (past. plural burston), cognate with Old High German brestan (German bersten), Old Norse bresta; akin to break
Related formsnon·burst·ing, adjective, nounun·burst, adjective
Can be confusedbust burst (see usage note at bust2)

Synonyms for burst

1. crack, explode. 6. rend, tear. 10. spurt. 11, 12. outbreak.

Usage note

See bust2.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for burst

Contemporary Examples of burst

Historical Examples of burst

  • "Now you are angry with me," exclaimed the sensitive maiden; and she burst into tears.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Then, indeed, she had burst upon him with an impetuous despair that had alarmed him.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • Although my heart was ready to burst, yet could I neither weep nor speak.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • Just think a moment: this my first burst from the dungeon-land of London for a whole year!

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • He dashed the glass from him, and burst into tears which he did not even try to conceal.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

British Dictionary definitions for burst


verb bursts, bursting or burst

to break or cause to break open or apart suddenly and noisily, esp from internal pressure; explode
(intr) to come, go, etc, suddenly and forciblyhe burst into the room
(intr) to be full to the point of breaking open
(intr) to give vent (to) suddenly or loudlyto burst into song
to cause or suffer the rupture ofto burst a blood vessel


a sudden breaking open or apart; explosion
a break; breach; rupture
a sudden display or increase of effort or action; spurta burst of speed
a sudden and violent emission, occurrence, or outbreaka burst of heavy rain; a burst of applause
a volley of fire from a weapon or weapons


broken apart; ruptureda burst pipe
Derived Formsburster, noun

Word Origin for burst

Old English berstan; related to Old Norse bresta, Old Frisian bersta, Old High German brestan; compare break
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 burst

Old English berstan (intransitive) "break suddenly, shatter under pressure" (class III strong verb; past tense bærst, past participle borsten), from a West Germanic metathesis of Proto-Germanic *brestanan (cf. Old Saxon brestan, Old Frisian bersta, Middle Dutch berstan, Low German barsten, Dutch barsten, Old High German brestan, German bersten "to burst"), from PIE root *bhreus- "to burst, break, crack" (see bruise (v.)).

The forms reverted to brest- in Middle English from influence of Old Norse brestan/brast/brosten, from the same Germanic root, but it was re-metathesized late 16c. and emerged in the modern form, though brast was common as past tense through 17c. and survives in dialect.

Of extended or distended surfaces from 1530s. Figuratively, in reference to being over-full of excitement, anticipation, etc., from 1630s. Transitive sense ("to cause to break") is from late 13c. Meaning "to issue suddenly and abundantly" is from c.1300 (literal), mid-13c. (figurative). Meaning "break into sudden activity or expression" is from 1680s. Related: Bursting.


1610s, "act of bursting," from burst (v.). Meaning "a spurt" (of activity, etc.) is from 1862. The earlier noun berst (early Middle English) meant "damage, injury, harm."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper