break off

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See also: breakoff and break-off



From Middle English breke of (break off, terminate), a dissimilated form of earlier Middle English ofbreken, equivalent to break +‎ off.


break off (third-person singular simple present breaks off, present participle breaking off, simple past broke off, past participle broken off)

  1. (transitive) To remove a piece from a whole by breaking or snapping.
    She unwrapped the slab of chocolate and broke off a piece.
  2. (intransitive) To become detached by breaking or snapping.
    A chunk of rock broke off from the cliff face.
  3. (transitive) To discontinue abruptly.
    Both families want the lovers to break off any relationship they may have.
    • 2023 February 25, Tim Dowling, “Tim Dowling: I’m revisiting my worst ever moment on stage – a Christmas panto”, in The Guardian[1], archived from the original on 2023-06-16:
      In fact I never said it; she eventually realised I was someone else, and broke off the conversation abruptly.
  4. (intransitive) To end abruptly, either temporarily or permanently.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, chapter 4, in Moonfleet, London, Toronto, Ont.: Jonathan Cape, published 1934:
      Then the conversation broke off, and there was little more talking, only a noise of men going backwards and forwards, and of putting down of kegs and the hollow gurgle of good liquor being poured from breakers into the casks.
  5. (transitive, intransitive, billiards, snooker) To play the first shot in a frame of snooker, billiards or pool.
    • 2017, John Virgo, Say Goodnight, JV - My Autobiography, John Blake Publishing, →ISBN:
      Ted's opening line, when Steve broke off for the deciding frame, was, 'Last night we put our clocks back one hour. These two stars turned theirs back to April.'