Idioms With “Break” and Meanings

List of idioms with the word “Break” and the meanings. Idioms about “Break” and expressions.

Break the ice; to get things started, particularly by means of a social introduction or conversation
1. It didn’t take long for the guests at the party to break the ice. By the time dinner was served, almost everyone was chatting with someone they had just met.
2. I’m afraid we haven’t met. Let me break the ice by introducing myself. My name is John Taylor.
The expression suggests the idea of breaking through an icy surface to clear a path for ships.

Make or break; to be the deciding factor in whether something succeeds or fails
1. The Smiths were about to sell their house, but the buyers didn’t like the color. The Smiths decided to give it a new coat of paint at no extra cost, in case painting the house might make or break the deal.
2. Susan decided to study for the test through the night. She knew that her grade on this test would make or break her chances of getting admitted to graduate school.

Break a leg! good luck. (Theatrical slang. This is said to actors before a performance instead of Good luck. Also used literally.)
Before the play, John said to Mary, “Break a leg!”
Saying “Break a leg!” before a performance is an old theatrical tradition.


break away from someone or something and break away to get away or pull away from someone or something.
It was hard for John to break away from his mother.
John finally broke away. His mother cried and cried.
The dog broke away from its owner.
The iceberg broke away from the glacier.

break camp to close down a campsite; to pack up and move on.
Early this morning we broke camp and moved on northward.
Okay, everyone. It’s time to break camp. Take those tents down and fold them nearly.

break down 1. to fall apart; to stop operating.
The air conditioning broke down, and we got very warm.
The car broke down in the parking lot.
2. to lose control of one’s emotions; to have a nervous collapse.
He couldn’t keep going. He finally broke down and wept.
I was afraid I’d break down.

break even for income to equal expenses. (This implies that money was not earned or lost.)
Unfortunately my business just managed to break even last year.
I made a bad investment, but I broke even. break ground for something and break ground to start digging the foundation for a building.
The president of the company came to break ground for the new building.
This was the third building this year for which this company has broken ground.
When will they break ground?

break in on someone or something and break in to interrupt someone or something; to come in suddenly and interrupt someone or something.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to break in on your conference.
Tom frequently broke in on his sister and her boyfriend.
I think he broke in on purpose.

break into something and break in to enter into a place (illegally) by the use of force.
The robber broke into the house.
If the door had been left unlocked, he wouldn’t have had to break in.

break loose from someone or something and break loose to get away from a person or a thing which is holding one.
The criminal broke loose from the police officer.
It’s hard to break loose from home.
I was twenty years old before I could break loose.

break new ground to begin to do something which no one else has done; to pioneer (in an enterprise).
Dr. Anderson was breaking new ground in cancer research.
They were breaking new ground in consumer electronics. break off with someone and break off to end a friendship with someone, especially a boyfriend or a girlfriend.
Tom has finally broken off with Mary.
I knew it couldn’t last. He was bound to break off.


break one’s neck to do something and break one’s back to do something; break one’s back; break one’s neck to work very hard to do something. (Never used in its literal sense.)
I broke my neck to get here on time.
That’s the last time I’ll break my neck to help you.There is no point in breaking your back. Take your time.

break out 1. See break out of something. 2. (for one’s face) to erupt in pimples.
Bob’s face has started breaking out badly.
My face breaks out when I eat a lot of chocolate.

break out in a cold sweat to perspire from fever, fear, or anxiety. □ I was so frightened I broke out in a cold sweat.
The patient broke out in a cold sweat.

break out in something and break out to erupt with something such as a rash, a cold sweat, or pimples.
After being in the woods, I broke out in a rash. I think it’s poison ivy.
I hate to break out like that.
When I eat chocolate, I break out in pimples.

break out into tears and break into tears; break out in tears to start crying suddenly.
I was so sad that I broke out into tears.
I always break into tears at a funeral.
It’s hard not to break out in tears under those circumstances.

break out of something and break out to force one’s way out of a place.
The criminal broke out of jail.
The lion broke out of its cage and terrorized the village.
I’ve always been afraid that the lion would break out.

break someone or something down and break down someone or something
1. [with someone]to force someone to give up and tell secrets or agree to do something.
After threats of torture, they broke the spy down.
They broke down the agent by threatening violence.
2. [with something]to tear something down; to destroy something.
They used an ax to break the door down.
We broke down the wall with big hammers.

break someone or something in and break in someone or something; break in
1. [with someone]to train someone to do a job; to supervise a new person learning a new job.
I have to break in a new worker.
It takes time to break a new worker in.
Are they hard to break in?
2. [with something]to make something fit by wearing or using it.
I’ll be glad when I’ve finished breaking in these shoes.
Yes, it takes time to break them in.
They are easy to break in, though.
The car will run better after I break it in.

break someone or something up and break up someone or something
1. [with someone]to cause a person to laugh, perhaps at an inappropriate time. (Informal.)
John told a joke which really broke Mary up.
The comedian ‘s job was to break up the audience by telling jokes.
2. [with something]to destroy something.
The police broke up the gambling ring.
The storm broke the docks up on the lake.

break someone’s fall to cushion a falling person; to lessen the impact of a falling person.
When the little boy fell out of the window, the bushes broke his fall.
The old lady slipped on the ice, but a snowbank broke her fall.

break someone’s heart to cause someone emotional pain.
It just broke my heart when Tom ran away from home.
Sally broke John’s heart when she refused to marry him.


break something away and break something loose; break something off; break off something to break and dislodge a piece of something.
Break the glass away from the frame, and then put in the new pane of glass.
I broke a tooth loose.
Have some of this candy. Break a piece off.
Okay, I’ll break off a piece.

break something to pieces to shatter something. (Informal.)
I broke my crystal vase to pieces.
I dropped a glass and broke it to pieces.

break the back of something to end the domination of something; to reduce the power of something.
The government has worked for years to break the back of organized crime.
This new medicine should break the back of the epidemic.

break the news to someone and break the news to tell someone some important news, usually bad news.
The doctor had to break the news to Jane about her husband’s cancer.
I hope that the doctor broke the news gently.

break through something and break through to break something and pass through; to overcome something. (Used both literally and figuratively.)
Tom was able to break through racial barriers.
They are hard to break through in some places.
The scientists broke through the mystery surrounding the disease and found the cause.

breakthrough the discovery of a solution to a problem.
The scientists working on cancer made a major break-through.

break up with someone and break up to end a love affair or a romance.
Tom finally broke up with Mary.
I thought they would break up. He has been so moody lately.

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