break the ice

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By application of the metaphor that strangers are socially separated by ice.


  • (US, UK) IPA(key): /ˈbɹeɪk ði ˈaɪs/
  • (file)


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

  1. Used other than with a figurative or idiomatic meaning: see break,‎ the,‎ ice.
  2. (idiomatic) To start to get to know people to avoid social awkwardness and formality.
    Including a few fun details in large group introductions can be a great way to break the ice.
  3. (idiomatic) To introduce conversation.
    1592, William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Act I, Scene II:
    If it be so, sir, that you are the man must stead us all, and me amongst the rest, and if you break the ice and do this feat, achieve the elder, set the younger free for our access, whose hap shall be to have her will not so graceless be to be ingrate. — Tranio (as Lucentio)
  1. To surmount initial difficulties; to overcome obstacles and make a beginning.

Derived terms[edit]