break ground, to
To start a construction project. The phrase refers to the first excavation of the site, often done with a ceremonial shovel. They broke ground on the new corporate headquarters today, but it will be years before we can actually move into it.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
break ground (for something)
to start digging the foundation for a building. The president of the company came to break ground for the new building. This was the third building this year for which this company has broken ground. When do they expect to break ground at the new site?
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Also, break new ground.
1. Begin digging into the earth for new construction of some kind. For example, When will they break ground for the town hall? This usage alludes to breaking up the land with a plow. [Early 1700s]
2. Take the first steps for a new venture; advance beyond previous achievements. For example, Jeff is breaking new ground in intellectual property law. [Early 1700s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. If someone breaks ground on a new building, they start building it and if a new building breaks ground, it starts to be built. Simpson and Hurt hope to break ground on a planned outdoor theater next August. The first co-housing project in America will break ground soon.
2. If someone breaks ground in a particular activity or area of study, they do something that is different and if something breaks ground, it is different from what came before. Perhaps I am lucky to have been in there at the start, when this music was breaking ground for the first time. We are breaking ground in the law here and have to proceed cautiously.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
1. To begin a new construction project.
2. To advance beyond previous achievements.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
break ground, to
To begin a new project; to be innovative. The term dates from the sixteenth century, when it meant literally to break up land with a plow, and began to be used figuratively by the late seventeenth century, by the poet John Dryden and others. In 1830, when De Quincey described Jeremy Bentham as “one of those who first broke ground as a pioneer . . . in Natural Philosophy,” the expression was well on its way to clichédom.
See also: break
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer