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tear someone apart
1. Lit. to rip someone apart savagely. (See also tear something apart.) Max threatened to tear Tom apart. The bear tore apart the hiker.
2. Fig. to cause two people, presumably lovers, to separate unwillingly. The enormous disruption of the accident tore them apart and they separated. The bickering between their parents finally tore apart the engaged couple.
3. Fig. to cause someone enormous grief or emotional pain. The death of her dog tore her apart. It was the dog's death that tore apart Barbara.
4. Fig. to criticize someone mercilessly. The critic tore apart the entire cast of the play. Why do you have to tear yourself apart for making a little error?
tear something apart
1. to pull or rip something apart. (See also tear someone apart.) The bear tore the tent apart. The lions tore apart the wildebeest in minutes, and began eating it.
2. to criticize something mercilessly. The critic tore apart the entire cast of the play.
3. to divide something or the members of a group, citizens of a country, etc. The financial crisis tore the club apart. The crisis tore apart the organization.
tear apart somebody/somethingalso tear somebody/something apart
1. to severely criticize someone or something The critics tore apart his first novel, but he never gave up and finally achieved great success. His teachers tore him apart for cheating on the test.
2. also tear somebody/something up to hurt someone or something badly The college was torn apart by antiwar protests. The families of the victims were torn apart with grief and anger and sorrow. Success has a way of tearing up relationships.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of tear apart (pull into pieces)
1. Upset or make distraught, as in The parents' divorce tore apart the grandparents. [Second half of 1800s]
2. Criticize severely, as in The professor tore her paper apart. [Mid-1900s]
3. Search some place completely, as in The police tore the house apart. [Second half of 1900s]
4. Separate, especially unwillingly, as in The war tore many families apart.
1. To destroy something by or as if by tearing: The explosion tore the building apart. The tornado tore apart the barn.
2. To separate someone from someone else: Don't let your anger tear you apart from me. We can't tear the happy couple apart.
3. To criticize something harshly: The committee tore apart my report. The professor tore the student's paper apart.