1an interruption of continuity or uniformity:the magazine has been published without a break since 1950
an act of separating oneself from a pre-existing state of affairs:a break with the past
a change in the weather:a week or so may pass without a break in the weather
[with modifier] a change of line, paragraph, or page:dotted lines on the screen show page breaks
a change of tone in a person’s voice due to emotion:there was a break in her voice now
an interruption in an electric circuit.
(also break of serve or service break) Tennis the winning of a game against an opponent’s serve.
2a pause in work or during an activity or event:I need a break from mental activitythose returning to work after a career breaka coffee break
British an interval during the school day:the bell went for break
a short holiday:a weekend break in the Cotswolds
a short solo or instrumental passage in jazz or popular music.
(breaks) dance music featuring breakbeats.
3a gap or opening:the track bends left through a break in the hedgehe stopped to wait for a break in the traffic
4an instance of breaking something, or the point where something is broken:he was stretchered off with a break to the leg
5a rush or dash in a particular direction, especially by an attacking player or team:Norwich scored on a rare break with 11 minutes left
informal an escape, typically from prison.
Cricket a change in the direction of a bowled ball on bouncing.
6 informal an opportunity or chance, especially one leading to professional success:his big break came when a critic gave him a rave review
7 Snooker & Billiards a consecutive series of successful shots, scoring a specified number of points:a break of 83 put him in front for the first time
a player’s turn to make the opening shot of a game:whose break is it?
8a bud or shoot sprouting from a stem.
1separate into pieces as a result of a blow, shock, or strain: [no object]:the rope broke with a loud snap [with object]:windows in the street were broken by the blast
sustain an injury involving the fracture of a bone or bones in a part of the body: [with object]:she had broken her leg in two places [no object]:what if his leg had broken?
[with object] cause a cut or graze in (the skin):the bite had scarcely broken the skin
make or become inoperative: [no object]:the machine has broken and they can’t fix it until next week [with object]:he’s broken the video
[no object] (of the amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus) be discharged when the sac is ruptured in the first stages of labour:she realized her waters had broken
[with object] informal open (a safe) forcibly.
[with object] use (a banknote) to pay for something and receive change out of the transaction:she had to break a tenner
[no object] (of two boxers or wrestlers) come out of a clinch, especially at the referee’s command:I was acting as referee and telling them to break
[no object] make the first stroke at the beginning of a game of billiards, pool, or snooker.
[with object] unfurl (a flag or sail).
[with object] succeed in deciphering (a code):ciphers are easily broken by the new wonder machines
[with object] disprove (an alibi).
2 [with object] interrupt (a continuity, sequence, or course):the new government broke the pattern of growthhis concentration was broken by a sound
put an end to (a silence) by speaking or making contact:it was some time before he broke the silence
chiefly British make a pause in (a journey):we will break our journey in Venice
[no object] stop proceedings in order to have a pause or vacation:at mid-morning they broke for coffee
lessen the impact of (a fall):she put out an arm to break her fall
disconnect or interrupt (an electric circuit):a multimeter able to measure current without having to break the circuit under test
stop oneself being subject to (a habit):try to break the habit of adding salt at the table
surpass (a record):the film broke box office records in the US
3 [with object] fail to observe (a law, regulation, or agreement):the council says it will prosecute traders who break the lawa legally binding contract which can only be broken by mutual consent
fail to continue with (a self-imposed discipline):diets started without preparation are broken all the time
4 [with object] crush the emotional strength, spirit, or resistance of:the idea was to better the prisoners, not to break them
[no object] (of a person’s emotional strength or control) give way:her self-control finally broke
destroy the power of (a movement or organization):strategies used to break the union
destroy the effectiveness of (a strike), typically by moving in other people to replace the striking workers:a government threat to use the army to break the strike
5 [no object] undergo a change or enter a new state, in particular:
(of the weather) change suddenly, especially after a fine spell:the weather broke and thunder rumbled through a leaden sky
(of a storm) begin violently:when all were aboard, the storm broke
(of dawn or a day) begin as the sun rises:dawn was just breaking
(of clouds) move apart and begin to disperse:on the seventh of September the clouds broke for the first time
(of waves) curl over and dissolve into foam:the Caribbean sea was breaking gently on the shore
(of a person’s voice) falter and change tone, due to emotion:her voice broke as she relived the experience
(of a boy’s voice) change in tone and register at puberty:after his voice broke, he left the choir
Phonetics (of a vowel) develop into a diphthong, under the influence of an adjacent sound.
(of prices on the stock exchange) fall sharply.
6 [no object] (of news or a scandal) suddenly become public:since the news broke I’ve received thousands of wonderful letters
[with object] (break something to) make bad news known to (someone):he was trying to break the terrible news gently to his father
7 [no object, with adverbial] (chiefly of an attacking player or team, or of a military force) make a rush or dash in a particular direction:Mitchell won possession and broke quickly, allowing Hughes to score
(of a bowled cricket ball) change direction on bouncing, due to spin.
Sport (of the ball) rebound unpredictably:the ball broke to Craig but his shot rebounded from the post
break one's back
put great effort into achieving something:as soon as we finished I’d break my back to get home to her
break the back of
accomplish the main or hardest part of (a task):we’ve broken the back of the problem
overwhelm or defeat:I thought we really had broken the back of inflation