- to pull apart or in pieces by force, especially so as to leave ragged or irregular edges.
- to pull or snatch violently; wrench away with force: to tear wrappings from a package; to tear a book from someone's hands.
- to distress greatly: anguish that tears the heart.
- to divide or disrupt: a country torn by civil war.
- to wound or injure by or as if by rending; lacerate.
- to produce or effect by rending: to tear a hole in one's coat.
- to remove by force or effort: to be unable to tear oneself from a place.
- to become torn.
- to make a tear or rent.
- to move or behave with force, violent haste, or energy: The wind tore through the trees; cars tearing up and down the highway; I was tearing around all afternoon trying to find sandals for the beach.
- the act of tearing.
- a rent or fissure.
- a rage or passion; violent flurry or outburst.
- Informal. a spree.
- tear at,
- to pluck violently at; attempt to tear: She tore at the bandages until they loosened.
- to distress; afflict: remorse that tears at one's soul.
- tear down,
- to pull down; destroy; demolish.
- to disparage or discredit: to tear down one's friends behind their backs.
- tear into, Informal.
- to attack impulsively and heedlessly: He tore into the food with a will.
- to attack verbally: She tore into him for being late for dinner.
- tear off, Slang. to perform or do, especially rapidly or casually: to tear off a poem; to tear off a set of tennis.
- tear up,
- to tear into small shreds: He tore up the drawings because she had criticized them.
- to cancel or annul: to tear up a contract.
- tear it, Slang. to ruin all hope; spoil everything.
- tear one's hair, to manifest extreme anxiety, grief, anger, or frustration: I'm so upset, I could just tear my hair out.Also tear one's hair out.
Origin of tear2
- a drop of the secretion of the lacrimal glandsSee tears
- something shaped like a hanging dropa tear of amber
Word Origin for tear
- to cause (material, paper, etc) to come apart or (of material, etc) to come apart; rip
- (tr) to make (a hole or split) in (something)to tear a hole in a dress
- (intr often foll by along) to hurry or rushto tear along the street
- (tr; usually foll by away or from) to remove or take by force
- (when intr, often foll by at) to cause pain, distress, or anguish (to)it tore at my heartstrings to see the starving child
- tear one's hair informal to be angry, frustrated, very worried, etc
- a hole, cut, or split
- the act of tearing
- a great hurry; rush
- on a tear slang showing a sudden burst of energy
Word Origin for tear
1650s, mainly in American English, from tear (n.1). Related: Teared; tearing. Old English verb tæherian did not survive into Middle English.
"act of ripping or rending," 1660s, from tear (v.1).
"water from the eye," Old English tear, from earlier teahor, tæhher, from Proto-Germanic *takh-, *tagr- (cf. Old Norse, Old Frisian tar, Old High German zahar, German Zähre, Gothic tagr "tear"), from PIE *dakru-/*draku- (cf. Latin lacrima, Old Latin dacrima, Irish der, Welsh deigr, Greek dakryma). Tear gas first recorded 1917.
"pull apart," Old English teran (class IV strong verb; past tense tær, past participle toren), from Proto-Germanic *teran (cf. Old Saxon terian, Middle Dutch teren "to consume," Old High German zeran "to destroy," German zehren, Gothic ga-tairan "to tear, destroy"), from PIE *der- "tear" (cf. Sanskrit drnati "cleaves, bursts," Greek derein "to flay," Armenian terem "I flay," Old Church Slavonic dera "to burst asunder," Breton darn "piece").
The Old English past tense survived long enough to get into Bible translations as tare before giving place 17c. to tore, which is from the old past participle toren. Sense of "to pull by force" (away from some situation or attachment) is attested from late 13c. To be torn between two things (desires, loyalties, etc.) is from 1871.
- A drop of the clear salty liquid secreted by glands (lacrimal glands) in the eyes. Tears wet the membrane covering the eye and help rid the eye of irritating substances.
Pull at or attack violently, as in Jane eagerly tore at the wrapping paper, or The dog tore at the meat. [Mid-1800s]
Distress, as in Their plight tore at his heart.
In addition to the idioms beginning with tear
- tear apart
- tear around
- tear at
- tear away
- tear down
- tear into
- tear it
- tear off
- tear one's hair
- rip (tear) into
- wear and tear
Also see undertearstorn.