break up

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See also: breakup and break-up


Alternative forms[edit]


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

  1. (intransitive) To break or separate into pieces; to disintegrate or come apart.
    It broke up when it hit the ground.
    • 2022 August 24, Bruce Healey, “Wartime tunnel crash: a miraculous escape”, in RAIL, number 964, page 53:
      It was recorded that 26 wagons were either destroyed or more or less broken up.
  2. (transitive) To upset greatly; to cause great emotional disturbance or unhappiness.
  3. (intransitive, idiomatic) To end a (usually romantic or sexual) relationship.
    She broke up with her boyfriend last week.
  4. (reciprocal, intransitive) To end a (usually romantic or sexual) relationship with each other.
    Jane and Stephen broke up.
  5. (intransitive, idiomatic) To dissolve; to part.
    The meeting finally broke up after a three-hour discussion.
    • 1762, Charles Johnstone, The Reverie; or, A Flight to the Paradise of Fools[1], volume 2, Dublin: Printed by Dillon Chamberlaine, OCLC 519072825, page 202:
      At length, one night, when the company by ſome accident broke up much ſooner than ordinary, ſo that the candles were not half burnt out, ſhe was not able to reſiſt the temptation, but reſolved to have them ſome way or other. Accordingly, as ſoon as the hurry was over, and the ſervants, as ſhe thought, all gone to ſleep, ſhe ſtole out of her bed, and went down ſtairs, naked to her ſhift as ſhe was, with a deſign to ſteal them []
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, chapter 4, in Moonfleet, London; Toronto, Ont.: Jonathan Cape, published 1934:
      So the meeting broke up, and the torchlight grew dimmer, and died away as it had come in a red flicker on the roof, and the footsteps sounded fainter as they went up the passage, until the vault was left to the dead men and me.
  6. (intransitive, idiomatic) Of a school, to close for the holidays at the end of term.
    • 2021 August 25, Stefanie Foster, “Comment: A dumb way to die”, in RAIL, number 938, page 3:
      Once the schools break up for the holidays, children across the country are at a loose end and instances of kids doing stupid things on the railway become far too common.
  7. (intransitive, telecommunications) Of a conversation, to cease to be understandable because of a bad connection; of a signal, to deteriorate.
    You're breaking up. Can you repeat that?
    • 2009, Lady Gaga et al. (lyrics and music), “Telephone”:
      what did you say? you're breaking up on me
  8. (transitive) To break or separate into pieces.
    Break up the cheese and put it in the salad.
  9. (transitive, idiomatic) To stop a fight; to separate people who are fighting.
    The police came in to break up the disturbance.
  10. (intransitive, idiomatic, figuratively) Become disorganised
    • 2011 September 18, Ben Dirs, “Rugby World Cup 2011: England 41-10 Georgia”, in BBC Sport[2]:
      England's superior conditioning began to show in the final quarter and as the game began to break up, their three-quarters began to stamp their authority on the game. And when Foden went on a mazy run from inside his own 22 and put Ashton in for a long-range try, any threat of an upset was when and truly snuffed out.
  11. To cut or take to pieces for scrap.
    • 1940 December, “Notes and News: Locomotive News”, in Railway Magazine, pages 667-668:
      Ex-Brighton "I4" 4-4-2 tank No. 2034, the last of its class, and "02" 0-4-4 tank No. 214 have been broken up.
  12. (transitive, intransitive, idiomatic, slang) be or cause to be overcome with laughter


See also[edit]


break up

  1. Alternative form of breakup