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Extremely difficult; exhausting; mentally and/or physically taxing to the point of feeling like one's body or spirit will break. Though usually used in reference to physical labor, it can refer figuratively to any job, activity, or task. After 10 years of back-breaking labor in construction, I've decided to finally pursue academia. We put in months of back-breaking work to get ready for our exams in May.

break step

1. Literally, to stop walking or marching in unison with others. Come on, Tommy, don't break step! This band formation has to look perfect at the football game on Saturday!
2. By extension, to break from conformity with a larger group or others who one previously agreed with. The eminent scientist broke step with the research team by suggesting an entirely different conclusion about the data.
See also: break, step


Innovative and unprecedented. The narration in this novel is truly ground-breaking—I've never read anything like it! We've had some really ground-breaking legislation this year that will influence the laws in this nation for decades to come.


Deeply upsetting or causing great sadness. Watching my grandmother endure this horrible illness has been just heartbreaking. Have you see that new movie? It's so heartbreaking, I cried the whole time!

breaking and entering

the crime of forcing one's way into a place. (A criminal charge.) Wilbur was charged with four counts of breaking and entering. It was not an act of breaking and entering. The thief just opened the door and walked right in.
See also: and, breaking, enter

breaking point

1. Lit. the point at which something will break. The mule's back was strained to the breaking point with masses of bundles and straw.
2. Fig. the point at which nerves or one's mental state can endure no more. My nerves are at the breaking point.
See also: breaking, point

You cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs.

Prov. In order to get something good or useful, you must give up something else. Jill: Why do they have to tear down that beautiful old building to build an office park? Jane: You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. Alan: We may make more money by raising our prices, but we'll also upset a lot of customers. Fred: You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.

It's/You're breaking my heart!

something that you say in order to tell someone you do not feel sad about an event or situation 'Things are so bad right now she's had to sell one of her houses.' 'You're breaking my heart!'
See also: breaking

You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

something that you say which means it is difficult to achieve something important without causing any unpleasant effects Twenty jobs will have to be cut if the company's going to be made more efficient. But you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.
References in periodicals archive ?
When a wind-driven, breaking wave crashes at sea, it traps large volumes of air, which quickly break up into tiny bubbles, perhaps only tens of microns in diameter.
hitter), the pitcher can double up by going in off the plate and then wrapping a breaking ball around the hitter's back foot.
This method is based on special illumination, breaking tests, and an analysis of rupture lines.
He's wrong about that though - Breaking the Waves isn't on the verge, it's jumped, laughing and crying, right over that edge.
The data in figure 14 show the breaking stress [([sigma].
The catcher, before releasing the ball to 2nd base or back to the pitcher, must always take a peek at the runner on 3rd to check his lead and make sure hie is not breaking for home.
ACCU-BREAK(TM) tablets are designed for maximal dose accuracy when split, as well as for ease of breaking and to provide an optimal dosage for the millions of patients who split the tablets.
Williams took control of the set by breaking Seles after winning four consecutive points, accentuated by a perfect forehand volley to force triple-break point.
NEW YORK -- Reprise Media today unveiled FeedCast, a new patent-pending product that automates the process of building and implementing search engine marketing programs for breaking content.
Suspected of breaking windows at an elderly woman's home after ringing the doorbell while she was in the shower, Thomas Carter was arrested after he burst into a Desert Christian classroom but was confronted by the teacher, deputies said.
Every criminal apprehension is important to Sonitrol, but the security company is especially proud of the capture of two people caught breaking into the Santee Elementary School in San Jose, Calif.
Pasadena hit 106, breaking its 104-degree record set in 1996.
A ground breaking, inspirational event will debut, "Fun in the SON" - Gospel Spring Break
Yes,'' hissed Novotna, who then expanded her hold on the match by breaking Tauziat in the first game of the second set.