break up

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break up

1. verb To come apart in pieces. The house is so old that the plaster on this wall is breaking up—there are bits of it all over the floor.
2. verb To split something into smaller pieces. In this usage, a noun is commonly used between "break" and "up." I know the project is daunting, but let's break it up into manageable parts that each of us can work on. Because there was only one cookie left, I broke it up so that each kid could have a piece.
3. verb To be inaudible or indecipherable, as of a voice on the telephone or a broadcast of some kind. I'm sorry, can you repeat that? You're breaking up. Your father called, but he was breaking up the whole time, and his message was all garbled.
4. verb To disrupt something and induce its end. In this usage, a noun can be used between "break" and "up." When the teacher saw the two boys shove each other, she came running over to break it up. The police have been working hard to break up the drug trade in our city
5. verb To end a partnership of some kind, often a romantic relationship. I'm so sad to hear that Mara and John broke up—I thought those two would be together forever. The Beatles breaking up is considered a pivotal moment in rock history.
6. verb To cause one to laugh or cry intensely. In this usage, a noun or pronoun is commonly used between "break" and "up." That joke broke her up more than I'd anticipated—she thought it was hilarious! My mother was fine this morning, but the funeral really broke her up.
7. verb To laugh or cry intensely. She thought that joke was hilarious and completely broke up at it! My mother was fine this morning, but she really broke up at the funeral.
8. verb To disrupt the monotony of something. I need to walk around and get some coffee—anything to break up a morning of research. You need to inject some humor and break up the dull tone of this speech.
9. noun The end of a partnership of some kind, often a romantic relationship. The phrase is commonly written as one word in this usage. I was so sad to hear of Mara and John's breakup—I thought those two would be together forever. The Beatles' breakup is considered a pivotal moment in rock history.
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break someone up

to cause a person to laugh, perhaps at an inappropriate time. John told a joke that really broke Mary up. The comedian's job was to break up the audience by telling jokes.
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break something up

 
1. Lit. to destroy something. The storm broke the docks up on the lake. The police broke up the gambling ring.
2. Fig. to put an end to something. The police broke the fight up. Walter's parents broke up the party at three in the morning.
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break something up (into something)

to break something into smaller pieces. We broke the crackers up into much smaller pieces. Please break up the crackers into smaller pieces if you want to feed the ducks.
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break up

 
1. Lit. [for something] to fall apart; to be broken to pieces. (Typically said of a ship breaking up on rocks.) In the greatest storm of the century, theship broke up on the reef. It broke up and sank.
2. Go to break up (with someone).
3. [for married persons] to divorce. After many years of bickering, they finally broke up.
4. [for a marriage] to dissolve in divorce. Their marriage finally broke up.
5. to begin laughing very hard. The comedian told a particularly good joke, and the audience broke up. I always break up when I hear her sing. She is so bad!
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break up (with someone)

to end a romantic relationship with someone. Tom broke up with Mary and started dating Lisa. We broke up in March, after an argument.
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break somebody up

also break up somebody
to make someone laugh or cry He was the kind of comedian who broke up an audience with perfect accents and extremely funny impressions. Both of their parents died in that car crash, and it breaks me up just to think about it.
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break up

1. Divide into many pieces; disintegrate. For example, Now break up the head of garlic into separate cloves. [Mid-1700s]
2. Interrupt the continuity of something, as in A short walk will break up the long morning.
3. Also, break it up. Scatter, disperse, as in The crowd broke up as soon as they reached the streets. [Late 1400s] This phrase is also used as an imperative, as in "Break it up!" shouted the police officer. [c. 1930]
4. Bring or come to an end, as in His gambling was bound to break up their marriage.
5. Also, break someone up. Burst into or cause one to burst into an expression of feeling, such as laughter or tears. For example, His jokes always break me up, or That touching eulogy broke us all up, or I looked at her and just broke up. The precise meaning depends on the context. This sense grew out of a usage from the early 1800s that meant "upset" or "disturb." [Colloquial; early 1800s]
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break up

v.
1. To divide something into pieces: He broke up a piece of chocolate and scattered the pieces on top of the cake. She took the damaged table outside and broke it up with an axe for use as firewood.
2. To separate or shatter into pieces: The falling rocket broke up before it hit the ground.
3. To cause a relationship or partnership to end: Personal tensions broke the rock band up. I'm not trying to break up their marriage.
4. To end a relationship or partnership; separate: I thought they would be married by the end of the year, but they broke up instead.
5. To cause a crowd or gathering to disperse: The protest rally was getting very big and noisy when the police came and broke it up. The teacher came outside to break up the group of children that were fighting.
6. To disperse: The crowd broke up after the concert was over.
7. To cause someone to laugh or cry very hard: That story that you told really broke me up!
8. To laugh or cry very hard: She broke up when I told her the joke. He broke up when he heard the sad news.
9. To be unclear because of technical difficulties. Used of radio and telephone signals: My radio started breaking up as I drove through the tunnel. There must be something wrong with your phone; your signal is breaking up!
10. To add variety to something: The vertical stripes break up the horizontal patterns on the wall. I take a short walk after lunch to break up the routine of the workday.
See also: break, up