A Dictionary of the English Language
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Break (verb active)

View Scan · View Transcription · from pages 282, 283

View Scan · View Transcription · from pages 282, 283

To Break. v.a. pret. I broke, or brake; part. pass. broke, or broken. [bꞃccan, Saxon.]

  1. To part by violence.

    When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets of fragments took ye up? Mark, viii. 19.

    Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. Psalm ii. 3.

    See, said the sire, how soon 'tis done;
    Then took and broke them one by one:
    So strong you'll be in friendship ty'd;
    So quickly broke, if you divide.

  2. To burst, or open by force.

    Moses tells us, that the fountains of the earth were broke open, or clove asunder. Burnet's Theory.

  3. To pierce; to divide, as light divides darkness.

    By a dim winking lamp, which feebly broke
    The gloomy vapours, he lay stretch'd along.

  4. To destroy by violence.

    This is the fabrick, which, when God breaketh down, none can build up again. Burnet's Theory.

  5. To overcome; to surmount.

    Into my hand he forc'd the tempting gold,
    While I with modest struggling broke his hold.

  6. To batter; to make breaches or gaps in.

    I'd give bay Curtal, and his furniture,
    My mouth no more were broken than these boys,
    And writ as little beard.
    Shakesp. All's well that ends well.

  7. To crush or destroy the strength of the body.

                              O father abbot!
    An old man, broken with the storms of state,
    Is come to lay his weary bones among ye;
    Give him a little earth for charity.
    Shakesp. Henry VIII.

              The breaking of that parliament
    Broke him; as that dishonest victory
    At Chæronea, fatal to liberty,
    Kill'd with report that old man eloquent.

    Have not some of his vices weakened his body, and broke his health? have not others dissipated his estate, and reduced him to want? Tillotson.

  8. To sink or appal the spirit.

                  I'll brave her to her face;
    I'll give my anger its free course against her:
    Thou shalt see, Phœnix, how I'll break her pride.

  9. To subdue.

    Why, then, thou can'st not break her to the lute. —
    — Why, no; for she hath broke the lute to me.
    Shakesp. Taming the Shrew.

    Behold, young Juba, the Numidian prince,
    With how much care he forms himself to glory,
    And breaks the fierceness of his native temper.
    Addison's Cato.

  10. To crush; to disable; to incapacitate.

    The defeat of that day at Cropredy was much greater than it then appeared to be; and it even broke the heart of his army. Clarendon.

    Your hopes without are vanish'd into smoke;
    Your captains taken, and your armies broke.

  11. To weaken the mind.

                            Opprest nature sleeps:
    This rest might yet have balm'd thy broken senses,
    Which, if conveniency will not allow,
    Stand in hard cure.
    Shakesp. King Lear.

    If any dabler in poetry dares venture upon the experiment, he will only break his brains. Felton on the Classicks.

  12. To tame; to train to obedience.

    What boots it to break a colt, and to let him streight run loose at random? Spenser's State of Ireland.

    So fed before he's broke, he'll bear
    Too great a stomach patiently to feel
    The lashing whip, or chew the curbing steel.
    May's Virgil.

    That hot-mouth'd beast that bears against the curb,
    Hard to be broken even by lawful kings.

    No sports but what belong to war they know,
    To break the stubborn colt, to bend the bow.

                          Virtues like these,
    Make human nature shine, reform the soul,
    And break our fierce barbarians into men.
    Addison's Cato.

  13. To make bankrupt.

    For this few know themselves: for merchants broke,
    View their estate with discontent and pain.

    The king's grown bankrupt, like a broken man. Shakesp.

    With arts like these, rich Matho, when he speaks,
    Attracts all fees, and little lawyers breaks.

    A command or call to be liberal, all of a sudden impoverishes the rich, breaks the merchant, and shuts up every private man's exchequer. South.

  14. To crack or open the skin, so as that the blood comes.

    She could have run and waddled all about; even the day before she broke her brow; and then my husband took up the child. Shakesp. Romeo and Juliet.

    Weak soul! and blindly to destruction led:
    She break her heart! she'll sooner break your head.

  15. To violate a contract or promise.

                  Lovers break not hours,
    Unless it be to come before their time.
    Shakesp. T. G. of Ver.

    Pardon this fault, and, by my soul I swear,
    I never more will break an oath with thee.

    Did not our worthies of the house,
    Before they broke the peace, break vows?

  16. To infringe a law.

    Unhappy man! to break the pious laws
    Of nature, pleading in his children's cause.

  17. To intercept; to hinder the effect of.

    Break their talk, mistress, quickly; my kinsman shall speak for himself. Shakesp. Merry Wives of Windsor.

    Spirit of wine, mingled with common water, yet so as if the first fall be broken, by means of a sop, or otherwise, it stayeth above. Bacon's Physical Remains.

    Think not my sense of virtue is so small;
    I'll rather leap down first, and break your fall.

    As one condemn'd to leap a precipice,
    Who sees before his eyes the depth below,
    Stops short, and looks about for some kind shrub,
    To break his dreadful fall.
    Dryden's Spanish Friar.

    She held my had, the destin'd blow to break,
    Then from her rosy lips began to speak.

  18. To interrupt.

    Some solitary cloister will I choose,
    Coarse my attire, and short shall be my sleep,
    Broke by the melancholy midnight bell.
    Dryden's Sp. Friar.

    The father was so moved, that he could only command his voice, broke with sighs and sobbings, so far as to bid her proceed. Addison. Spectator, № 164.

    The poor shade shiv'ring stands, and must not break
    His painful silence, till the mortal speak.

    Sometimes in broken words he sigh'd his care,
    Look'd pale, and tumbled when he view'd the fair.

  19. To separate company.

    Did not Paul and Barnabas dispute with that vehemence, that they were forced to break company? Atterbury.

  20. To dissolve any union.

    It is great folly, as well as injustice, to break off so noble a relation. Collier of Friendship.

  21. To reform; with of.

    The French were not quite broken of it, until some time after they became christians. Grew's Cosmologia Sacra, b. iii. c. 6.

  22. To open something new; to propound something by an overture.

    When any new thing shall be propounded, no counsellor should suddenly deliver any positive opinion, but only hear it, and, at the most, but to break it, at first, that it may be the better understood at the next meeting. Bacon.

                I, who much desir'd to know
    Of whence she was, yet fearful how to break
    My mind, adventur'd humbly thus to speak.
    Dryden's Fab.

  23. To break the back. To strain or dislocate the vertebræ with too heavy burdens.

    I'd rather crack my sinews, break my back,
    Than you should such dishonour undergo.
    Shakesp. Tempest.

  24. To break the back. To disable one's fortune.

                                    O, many
    Have broke their backs, with laying manors on 'em,
    For this great journey.
    Shakesp. Henry VIII.

  25. To break a deer. To cut it up at table.

  26. To break fast. To eat the first time in the day.

  27. To break ground. To plow.

    When the price of corn falleth, men generally give over surplus tillage, and break no more ground than will serve to supply their own turn. Carew's Survey of Cornwal.

    The husbandman must first break the land, before it be made capable of good seed. Sir J. Davies on Ireland.

  28. To break ground. To open trenches.

  29. To break the heart. To destroy with grief.

    Good my lord, enter here. —
    — Will't break my heart?
    I'd rather break mine own.
    Shakesp. King Lear.

    Should not all relations bear a part?
    It were enough to break a single heart.

  30. To break a jest. To utter a jest unexpected.

  31. To break the neck. To lux, or put out the neck joints.

    I had as lief thou didst break his neck, as his fingers. Shakesp.

  32. To break off. To put a sudden stop.

  33. To break off. To preclude by some obstacle suddenly interposed.

    To check the starts and sallies of the soul,
    And break off all its commerce with the tongue.

  34. To break up. To dissolve; to put a sudden end to.

    Who cannot rest till he good fellows find;
    He breaks up house, turns out the doors his mind.

    He threatened, that the tradesmen would beat out his teeth, if he did not retire immediately, and break up the meeting. Arbuthnot's History of J. Bull.

  35. To break up. To open; to lay open.

    The shells being thus lodged amongst this mineral matter, when this comes now to be broke up, it exhibits impressions of the shells. Woodward on Fossils.

  36. To break up. To separate or disband.

    After taking the strong city of Belgrade, Solyman returning to Constantinople, broke up his army, and there lay still the whole year following. Knolles's History of the Turks.

  37. To break upon the wheel. To punish by stretching a criminal upon the wheel, and breaking his bones with bats.

  38. To break wind. To give vent to wind in the body.

Sources: Addison, Joseph (408) · Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well (21) · Arbuthnot, John (227) · Shakespeare's As You Like It (40) · Atterbury, Francis (75) · Bacon, Francis (396) · Burnet, Thomas (45) · Butler, Samuel (98) · Carew, Thomas (36) · Clarendon, Edward (73) · Collier, Jeremy (24) · Davies, John (45) · Dryden, John (788) · Felton, Henry (14) · Gay, John (51) · Grew, Nehemiah (36) · Shakespeare's Henry VIII (62) · Herbert, George (10) · Shakespeare's King Lear (144) · Knolles, Richard (44) · The Bible - Mark (11) · May, Thomas (5) · Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice (83) · Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor (95) · Milton, John (449) · Philips, Ambrose (8) · The Bible - Psalms (29) · Shakespeare's Richard II (40) · Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (46) · South, Robert (158) · Spectator (140) · Spenser, Edmund (254) · Swift, Jonathan (306) · Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew (71) · Shakespeare's Tempest (50) · Tickell, Thomas (12) · Tillotson, John (68) · Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona (41) · Woodward, John (78)

Attributes: Saxon (215) · Verb Active (289)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Break (verb active)." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: April 15, 2014. https://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/break-verb-active/.

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