a sculptured, painted, drawn, or engraved representation of the upper part of the human figure, especially a portrait sculpture showing only the head and shoulders of the subject.
the chest or breast, especially a woman's bosom.

Nearby words

  1. buss,
  2. busse-buschke disease,
  3. bussell,
  4. busses,
  5. bussing,
  6. bust a gut,
  7. bust one's ass,
  8. bust-up,
  9. bustamante,
  10. bustamante, anastasio

Origin of bust

1685–95; < French buste < Italian busto, probably < Latin būstum grave mound, tomb, literally, funeral pyre, ashes; presumably by association with the busts erected over graves



verb (used without object)

  1. to burst.
  2. to go bankrupt.
  3. to collapse from the strain of making a supreme effort: She was determined to make straight A's or bust.
  1. Draw Poker.to fail to make a flush or straight by one card.
  2. Blackjack.to draw cards exceeding the count of 21.

verb (used with object)

  1. to burst.
  2. to bankrupt; ruin financially.
to demote, especially in military rank or grade: He was busted from sergeant to private three times.
to tame; break: to bust a bronco.
  1. to place under arrest: The gang was busted and put away on narcotics charges.
  2. to subject to a police raid: The bar has been busted three times for selling drinks to minors.
  1. to hit.
  2. to break; fracture: She fell and busted her arm.


a failure.
Informal. a hit; sock; punch: He got a bust in the nose before he could put up his hands.
a sudden decline in the economic conditions of a country, marked by an extreme drop in stock-market prices, business activity, and employment; depression.
  1. an arrest.
  2. a police raid.
Informal. a drinking spree; binge.
  1. a very weak hand.
  2. Bridge.a hand lacking the potential to take a single trick.


Informal. bankrupt; broke.

Verb Phrases

bust up, Informal.
  1. to break up; separate: Sam and his wife busted up a year ago.
  2. to damage or destroy: Soldiers got in a fight and busted up the bar.

Origin of bust

1755–65; variant of burst, by loss of r before s, as in ass2, bass2, passel, etc.

Can be confusedburst burst (see usage note at the current entry)

Usage note

Historically bust is derived from a dialect pronunciation of burst and is related to it much as cuss is related to curse. Bust is both a noun and a verb and has a wide range of meanings for both uses. Many are slang or informal. A few, as “a decline in economic conditions, depression,” are standard.

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

Examples from the Web for bust

British Dictionary definitions for bust




the chest of a human being, esp a woman's bosom
a sculpture of the head, shoulders, and upper chest of a person

Word Origin for bust

C17: from French buste, from Italian busto a sculpture, of unknown origin

verb busts, busting, busted or bust

to burst or break
to make or become bankrupt
(tr) (of the police) to raid, search, or arrestthe girl was busted for drugs
(tr) US and Canadian to demote, esp in military rank
(tr) US and Canadian to break or tame (a horse, etc)
(tr) mainly US to punch; hit
bust a gut See gut (def. 9)


a raid, search, or arrest by the police
mainly US a punch; hit
US and Canadian a failure, esp a financial one; bankruptcy
a drunken party


go bust to become bankrupt

Word Origin for bust

C19: from a dialect pronunciation of burst

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 bust
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bust


In addition to the idioms beginning with bust

  • bust a gut
  • bust one's ass

also see:

  • break (bust) one's ass
  • go broke (bust)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.