From Middle English breke of (“break off, terminate”), a dissimilated form of earlier Middle English ofbreken, equivalent to break + off.
break off (third-person singular simple present breaks off, present participle breaking off, simple past broke off, past participle broken off)
- To end abruptly, either temporarily or permanently.
- 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet Chapter 4
- Then the conversation broke off, and there was little more talking, only a noise of men going backwards and forwards, and of putting down of kegs and the hollow gurgle of good liquor being poured from breakers into the casks.
- To end a relationship.
Both families want the lovers to break off any relationship they may have.
- To remove a piece from a whole by breaking or snapping
- 1900, L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- The bees came and found no one but the Woodman to sting, so they flew at him and broke off all their stings against the tin, without hurting the Woodman at all.
- (billiards, snooker) Alternative form of break-off
to remove a piece by breaking or snapping