break (one) of (something)(redirected from break them of)
break (one) of (something)
To stop one from doing a habitual action or activity. I was able to break my sister of biting her nails by regularly taking her to get a manicure with me. I need to learn how to break a toddler of tantrums because they are a common occurrence in our house these days.
break someone or something of something
to cause someone or something to stop practicing a habit. We worked hard to break the dog of making a mess on the carpet. I don't think I can break her of the habit. Tom broke himself of biting his nails.
break someone of something
Cause to discontinue a habit or practice, as in Mom tried for years to break Betty of biting her nails. The Oxford English Dictionary cites a quotation from W. Wotton's History of Rome (1701): "He ... broke them of their warm Baths," which presumably refers to breaking Romans of their custom of bathing regularly. Today we are more apt to break someone of a bad habit. [Early 1600s]