break even


Also, breakeven.

1935–40, Americanism Unabridged


verb (used with object), broke or (Archaic) brake; broken or (Archaic) broke; breaking.
to smash, split, or divide into parts violently; reduce to pieces or fragments: He broke a vase.
to infringe, ignore, or act contrary to (a law, rule, promise, etc.): She broke her promise.
to dissolve or annul (often followed by off ): to break off friendly relations with another country.
to fracture a bone of (some part of the body): He broke his leg.
to lacerate; wound: to break the skin.
to destroy or interrupt the regularity, uniformity, continuity, or arrangement of; interrupt: The bleating of a foghorn broke the silence. The troops broke formation.
to put an end to; overcome; stop: His touchdown run broke the tie. She found it hard to break the cigarette habit.
to discover the system, key, method, etc., for decoding or deciphering (a cryptogram), especially by the methods of cryptanalysis.
to remove a part from (a set or collection): She had to break the set to sell me the two red ones I wanted.
to exchange for or divide into smaller units or components: She broke a dollar bill into change. The prism broke the light into all the colors of the rainbow.
to make a way through; penetrate: The stone broke the surface of the water.
to open or force one's way into (a dwelling, store, etc.).
to contest (a will) successfully by judicial action.
to make one's way out of, especially by force: to break jail.
to better (a given score or record): He never broke 200 in bowling or 80 in golf.
to disclose or divulge personally in speech or writing: He broke the good news to her at dinner.
to solve: The police needed only a week to break that case.
to rupture (a blood vessel): She almost broke a blood vessel from laughing so hard.
to disable or destroy by or as if by shattering or crushing: to break a watch.
to cause (a blister, boil, or the like) to burst, as by puncturing: She broke the blister with a needle.
to ruin financially; make bankrupt: They threatened to break him if he didn't stop discounting their products.
to overcome or wear down the spirit, strength, or resistance of; to cause to yield, especially under pressure, torture, or the like: They broke him by the threat of blackmail.
to dismiss or reduce in rank.
to impair or weaken the power, effect, or intensity of: His arm broke the blow.
to train to obedience; tame: to break a horse.
to train away from a habit or practice (usually followed by of ).
Electricity. to render (a circuit) incomplete; stop the flow of (a current).
to release (a story) for publication or airing on radio or television: They will break the story tomorrow.
to continue (a story or article) on another page, especially when the page is not the following one.
Pool. to cause (racked billiard balls) to scatter by striking with the cue ball.
(of a pitcher, bowler, etc.) to hurl (a ball) in such a way as to cause it to change direction after leaving the hand: He broke a curve over the plate for a strike.
(in tennis and other racket games) to score frequently or win against (an opponent's serve).
Nautical. to unfurl (a flag) suddenly by an easily released knot.
to prove the falsity or show the lack of logic of: The FBI broke his alibi by proving he knew how to shoot a pistol.
to begin or initiate (a plan or campaign), especially with much publicity: They were going to break the sales campaign with a parade in April.
to open the breech or action of (a shotgun, rifle, or revolver), as by snapping open the hinge between the barrel and the butt.
verb (used without object), broke or (Archaic) brake; broken or (Archaic) broke; breaking.
to shatter, burst, or become broken; separate into parts or fragments, especially suddenly and violently: The glass broke on the floor.
to become suddenly discontinuous or interrupted; stop abruptly: She pulled too hard and the string broke.
to become detached, separated, or disassociated (usually followed by away, off, or from ): The knob broke off in his hand.
to become inoperative or to malfunction, as through wear or damage: The television set broke this afternoon.
to begin suddenly or violently or change abruptly into something else: War broke over Europe.
to begin uttering a sound or series of sounds or to be uttered suddenly: She broke into song. When they entered, a cheer broke from the audience.
to express or start to express an emotion or mood: His face broke into a smile.
to free oneself or escape suddenly, as from restraint or dependency (often followed by away ): He broke away from the arresting officer. She finally broke away from her parents and got an apartment of her own.
to run or dash toward something suddenly (usually followed by for ): The pass receiver broke for the goal line.
to force a way (usually followed by in, into, or through ): The hunters broke through the underbrush.
to burst or rupture: A blood vessel broke in his nose. The blister broke when he pricked it.
to interrupt or halt an activity (usually followed by in, into, forth, or from ): Don't break in on the conversation. Let's break for lunch.
to appear or arrive suddenly (usually followed by in, into, or out ): A deer broke into the clearing. A rash broke out on her arm.
to dawn: The day broke hot and sultry.
to begin violently and suddenly: The storm broke.
(of a storm, foul weather, etc.) to cease: The weather broke after a week, and we were able to sail for home.
to part the surface of water, as a jumping fish or surfacing submarine.
to give way or fail, as health, strength, or spirit; collapse: After years of hardship and worry, his health broke.
to yield or submit to pressure, torture, or the like: He broke under questioning.
(of the heart) to be overwhelmed with sorrow: Her heart broke when he told her that he no longer loved her.
(of the voice or a musical instrument) to change harshly from one register or pitch to another: After his voice broke, he could no longer sing soprano parts.
(of the voice) to cease, waver, or change tone abruptly, especially from emotional strain: His voice broke when he mentioned her name.
(of value or prices) to drop sharply and considerably.
to disperse or collapse by colliding with something: The waves broke on the shore.
(of a horse in a harness race) to fail to keep to a trot or pace, as by starting to gallop.
Botany. to mutate; sport.
Linguistics. to undergo breaking.
Billiards, Pool. to make a break; take the first turn in a game.
Sports. (of a pitched or bowled ball) to change direction: The ball broke over the plate.
Horse Racing, Track. to leave the starting point: The horses broke fast from the gate.
Boxing. to step back or separate from a clinch: The fighters fell into a clinch and broke on the referee's order.
to take place; occur.
Journalism. to become known, published, or aired: The story broke in the morning papers.
Horticulture. to produce flowers or leaves.
an act or instance of breaking; disruption or separation of parts; fracture; rupture: There was a break in the window.
an opening made by breaking; gap: The break in the wall had not been repaired.
a rush away from a place; an attempt to escape: a break for freedom.
a sudden dash or rush, as toward something: When the rain lessened, I made a break for home.
a suspension of or sudden rupture in friendly relations.
an interruption of continuity; departure from or rupture with: Abstract painters made a break with the traditions of the past.
an abrupt or marked change, as in sound or direction, or a brief pause: They noticed a curious break in his voice.
an opportunity or stroke of fortune, especially a lucky one.
a chance to improve one's lot, especially one unlooked for or undeserved.
the breaks, Informal. the way things happen; fate: Sorry to hear about your bad luck, but I guess those are the breaks.
a brief rest, as from work: The actors took a ten-minute break from rehearsal.
Radio, Television. a brief, scheduled interruption of a program or broadcasting period for the announcement of advertising or station identification.
Prosody. a pause or caesura.
Jazz. a solo passage, usually of from 2 to 12 bars, during which the rest of the instruments are silent.
Music. the point in the scale where the quality of voice of one register changes to that of another, as from chest to head.
a sharp and considerable drop in the prices of stock issues.
Electricity. an opening or discontinuity in a circuit.
one or more blank lines between two paragraphs.
the place, after a letter, where a word is or may be divided at the end of a line.
a collapse of health, strength, or spirit; breakdown.
Informal. an indiscreet or awkward remark or action; social blunder; faux pas.
Billiards, Pool. a series of successful strokes; run.
Pool. the opening play, in which the cue ball is shot to scatter the balls.
Sports. a change in direction of a pitched or bowled ball.
Horse Racing, Track. the start of a race.
(in harness racing) an act or instance of a horse's changing from a trot or pace into a gallop or other step.
Bowling. a failure to knock down all ten pins in a single frame.
Boxing. an act or instance of stepping back or separating from a clinch: a clean break.
any of several stages in the grinding of grain in which the bran is separated from the kernel.
Botany. a sport.
Journalism. the point at the bottom of a column where a printed story is carried over to another column or page.
Nautical. the place at which a superstructure, deckhouse, or the like, rises from the main deck of a vessel.
breaks, Physical Geography. an area dissected by small ravines and gullies.
Mining. a fault or offset, as in a vein or bed of ore.
Verb phrases
break away,
to leave or escape, especially suddenly or hurriedly.
to sever connections or allegiance, as to tradition or a political group.
to start prematurely: The horse broke away from the starting gate.
break back, Tennis. to win a game served by an opponent immediately after the opponent has done so against one's own serve.
break down,
to become ineffective.
to lose control; weaken: He broke down and wept at the sad news.
to have a physical or mental collapse.
to cease to function: The car broke down.
to itemize: to break down a hotel bill into daily charges.
Chemistry. to separate (a compound) into its constituent molecules.
Electricity. (of an insulator) to fail, as when subjected to excessively high voltage, permitting a current to pass.
to decompose.
to analyze.
to classify.
to separate into constituent parts: to break down a beef carcass into basic cuts.
break in,
to enter by force or craft: Someone broke in and made off with all the furniture.
to train or instruct; initiate: The boss is breaking in a new assistant.
to begin to wear or use in order to make comfortable: These shoes haven't been broken in.
to interrupt: He broke in with a ridiculous objection.
to run (new machinery) initially under reduced load and speed, until any stiffness of motion has departed and all parts are ready to operate under normal service conditions; run in; wear in.
break in on/upon, to enter with force upon or accidentally interrupt; intrude upon: The visitor opened the wrong door and broke in on a private conference.
break into,
to interpose; interrupt: He broke into the conversation at a crucial moment.
to begin some activity.
to be admitted into; enter, as a business or profession: It is difficult to break into the theater.
to enter by force: They broke into the store and stole the safe.
break off,
to sever by breaking.
to stop suddenly; discontinue: to break off a conversation; to break off relations with one's neighbors.
break out,
to begin abruptly; arise: An epidemic broke out.
Pathology. (of certain diseases) to appear in eruptions.
(of a person) to manifest a skin eruption.
to prepare for use: to break out the parachutes.
to take out of (storage, concealment, etc.) for consumption: to break out one's best wine.
Nautical. to dislodge (the anchor) from the bottom.
to escape; flee: He spent three years in prison before he broke out.
to separate into categories or list specific items: to break out gift ideas according to price range; The report breaks out quarterly profits and losses.
break up,
to separate; scatter.
to put an end to; discontinue.
to divide or become divided into pieces.
to dissolve.
to disrupt; upset: Television commercials during a dramatic presentation break up the continuity of effect.
(of a personal relationship) to end: to break up a friendship; Their marriage broke up last year.
to end a personal relationship: Bob and Mary broke up last month.
to be or cause to be overcome with laughter: The comedian told several jokes that broke up the audience.
break with,
to sever relations with; separate from: to break with one's family.
to depart from; repudiate: to break with tradition.
break bulk, Nautical. to remove a cargo wholly or in part.
break camp, to pack up tents and equipment and resume a journey or march: They broke camp at dawn and proceeded toward the mountains.
break even, to finish a business transaction, period of gambling, series of games, etc., with no loss or gain: He played poker all night and broke even.
break ground,
to begin construction, especially of a building or group of buildings: to break ground for a new housing development.
Nautical. to free an anchor from the bottom; break out.
break it down, Australian Slang.
stop it; calm down.
(used as an exclamation of disbelief) that can't be true!
break someone's heart, to cause someone great disappointment or sorrow, as to disappoint in love: It breaks my heart to hear you are leaving me.
break service, Tennis. to win a game served by one's opponent.
break sheer, Nautical. (of an anchored vessel) to drift into such a position as to risk fouling the anchor or anchor cable. Compare sheer2 ( def 6 ).
break step. step ( def 37 ).
break wind, to expel gas from the stomach and bowels through the anus.
give me a break, Informal. (used to express annoyance, disbelief, etc.): He didn't show up again? Oh, give me a break!

before 900; Middle English breken, Old English brecan; cognate with Dutch breken, German brechen, Gothic brikan; akin to Latin frangere; see fragile

breakable, adjective
breakableness, noun
breakably, adverb
breakless, adjective
nonbreakable, adjective
rebreak, verb, rebroke, rebroken, rebreaking.
unbreakable, adjective
unbreakableness, noun
unbreakably, adverb

1. brake, break ; 2. break, bust, burst (see synonym study at the current entry)(see usage note at bust).

1. fracture, splinter, shiver. Break, crush, shatter, smash mean to reduce to parts, violently or by force. Break means to divide by means of a blow, a collision, a pull, or the like: to break a chair, a leg, a strap. To crush is to subject to (usually heavy or violent) pressure so as to press out of shape or reduce to shapelessness or to small particles: to crush a beetle. To shatter is to break in such a way as to cause the pieces to fly in many directions: to shatter a light globe. To smash is to break noisily and suddenly into many pieces: to smash a glass. 2. disobey, contravene. 6. disrupt. 14. surpass, beat. 22. demote. 34. fragment, smash. 69. rent, tear, rip, rift, split; breach, fissure, crack. 74. stop, hiatus, lacuna, pause, caesura.

1. repair.


1 [ee-vuhn]
level; flat; without surface irregularities; smooth: an even road.
on the same level; in the same plane or line; parallel: even with the ground.
free from variations or fluctuations; regular: even motion.
uniform in action, character, or quality: to hold an even course.
equal in measure or quantity: Add even amounts of oil and vinegar.
divisible by two, as a number (opposed to odd ).
denoted by such a number: the even pages of a book.
exactly expressible in integers, or in tens, hundreds, etc., without fractional parts: an even seven miles.
Mathematics. (of a function) having a sign that remains the same when the sign of each independent variable is changed at the same time.
equally balanced or divided; equal: Check to see if the scales are even.
leaving no balance of debt on either side; square: We will not be even until I can repay him for saving my life.
calm; placid; not easily excited or angered: an even temper.
equitable, impartial, or fair: an even bargain.
evenly: The road ran even over the fields.
still; yet (used to emphasize a comparative): even more suitable.
(used to suggest that something mentioned as a possibility constitutes an extreme case or an unlikely instance): Even the slightest noise disturbs him. Even if he attends, he may not participate.
just (used to emphasize occurrence, coincidence, or simultaneousness of occurrences): Even as he lay dying, they argued over his estate.
fully or quite: even to death.
indeed (used as an intensive for stressing the identity or truth of something): He is willing, even eager, to do it.
exactly or precisely: It was even so.
verb (used with object)
to make even; level; smooth (sometimes followed by out ): to even a board with a plane.
to place in an even state as to claim or obligation; balance (often followed by up ): to even up accounts.
verb (used without object)
to become even: The odds evened before the race.
Verb phrases
even out,
to make or become even, smooth, or flat: The wrinkles will even out when the suit dries.
to become equal, balanced, stable, etc.: optimistic that the situation would even out eventually.
break even, to have one's profits equal one's losses; neither gain nor lose: The company barely broke even last year.
get even, to be revenged; retaliate: He vowed to get even for the insult.

before 900; (adj.) Middle English; Old English efen; cognate with Gothic ibns, Old High German eban, Old Norse jafn even, equal; (adv.) Middle English even(e), Old English efne, derivative of the adj.; (v.) Middle English evenen, Old English efnan to lower, derivative of the adj.

evener, noun
evenly, adverb
evenness, noun

1. plane. See level. 12. tranquil, temperate, composed, peaceful. 13. just.

1. irregular. 12. mercurial. 13. biased. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To break even
World English Dictionary
break (breɪk)
vb (when intr, often foll by out) (often foll by in) (often foll by of) (when intr, foll by into) , breaks, breaking, broke, broken
1.  to separate or become separated into two or more pieces: this cup is broken
2.  to damage or become damaged so as to be inoperative: my radio is broken
3.  to crack or become cracked without separating
4.  to burst or cut the surface of (skin, etc)
5.  to discontinue or become discontinued: they broke for lunch; to break a journey
6.  to disperse or become dispersed: the clouds broke
7.  (tr) to fail to observe (an agreement, promise, law, etc): to break one's word
8.  (foll by with) to discontinue an association (with)
9.  to disclose or be disclosed: he broke the news gently
10.  (tr) to fracture (a bone) in (a limb, etc)
11.  (tr) to divide (something complete or perfect): to break a set of books
12.  to bring or come to an end: the summer weather broke at last
13.  (tr) to bring to an end by or as if by force: to break a strike
14.  to escape (from): he broke jail; he broke out of jail
15.  to weaken or overwhelm or be weakened or overwhelmed, as in spirit
16.  (tr) to cut through or penetrate: a cry broke the silence
17.  (tr) to improve on or surpass: to break a record
18.  to accustom (a horse) to the bridle and saddle, to being ridden, etc
19.  to cause (a person) to give up (a habit): this cure will break you of smoking
20.  (tr) to weaken the impact or force of: this net will break his fall
21.  (tr) to decipher: to break a code
22.  (tr) to lose the order of: to break ranks
23.  (tr) to reduce to poverty or the state of bankruptcy
24.  to obtain, give, or receive smaller units in exchange for; change: to break a pound note
25.  chiefly (tr) military to demote to a lower rank
26.  (intr; often foll by from or out of) to proceed suddenly
27.  (intr) to come into being: light broke over the mountains
28.  (intr; foll by into or out into)
 a.  to burst into song, laughter, etc
 b.  to change to a faster pace
29.  (tr) to open with explosives: to break a safe
30.  (intr) of waves
 a.  (often foll by against) to strike violently
 b.  to collapse into foam or surf
31.  (intr) (esp of fish) to appear above the surface of the water
32.  (intr) (of the amniotic fluid surrounding an unborn baby) to be released when the amniotic sac ruptures in the first stage of labour: her waters have broken
33.  informal chiefly (US) (intr) to turn out in a specified manner: things are breaking well
34.  (intr) (of prices, esp stock exchange quotations) to fall sharply
35.  (intr) to make a sudden effort, as in running, horse racing, etc
36.  (intr) cricket (of a ball) to change direction on bouncing
37.  (tr) cricket (of a player) to knock down at least one bail from (a wicket)
38.  (intr) billiards, snooker to scatter the balls at the start of a game
39.  (intr) horse racing to commence running in a race: they broke even
40.  (intr) boxing, wrestling (of two fighters) to separate from a clinch
41.  (intr) music
 a.  (of the male voice) to undergo a change in register, quality, and range at puberty
 b.  (of the voice or some instruments) to undergo a change in tone, quality, etc, when changing registers
42.  (intr) phonetics (of a vowel) to turn into a diphthong, esp as a development in the language
43.  (tr) to open the breech of (certain firearms) by snapping the barrel away from the butt on its hinge
44.  (tr) Compare make to interrupt the flow of current in (an electrical circuit)
45.  informal chiefly (US) (intr) to become successful; make a breakthrough
46.  break bread
 a.  to eat a meal, esp with others
 b.  Christianity to administer or participate in Holy Communion
47.  break camp to pack up equipment and leave a camp
48.  break ground, break new ground to do something that has not been done before
49.  to overwork or work very hard
50.  break the back of to complete the greatest or hardest part of (a task)
51.  break the bank to ruin financially or deplete the resources of a bank (as in gambling)
52.  break the ice
 a.  to relieve shyness or reserve, esp between strangers
 b.  to be the first of a group to do something
53.  break the mould to make a change that breaks an established habit, pattern, etc
54.  tennis break service to win a game in which an opponent is serving
55.  break wind to emit wind from the anus
56.  the act or result of breaking; fracture
57.  a crack formed as the result of breaking
58.  a brief respite or interval between two actions: a break from one's toil
59.  a sudden rush, esp to escape: to make a break for freedom
60.  a breach in a relationship: she has made a break from her family
61.  any sudden interruption in a continuous action
62.  (Brit) US and Canadian equivalent: recess a short period between classes at school
63.  informal a fortunate opportunity, esp to prove oneself
64.  informal a piece of (good or bad) luck
65.  (esp in a stock exchange) a sudden and substantial decline in prices
66.  prosody a pause in a line of verse; caesura
67.  billiards, snooker
 a.  a series of successful shots during one turn
 b.  the points scored in such a series
68.  billiards, snooker
 a.  the opening shot with the cue ball that scatters the placed balls
 b.  the right to take this first shot
69.  tennis service break, Also called: break of serve the act or instance of breaking an opponent's service
70.  one of the intervals in a sporting contest
71.  horse racing the start of a race: an even break
72.  (in tenpin bowling) failure to knock down all the pins after the second attempt
73.  a.  jazz a short usually improvised solo passage
 b.  an instrumental passage in a pop song
74.  a discontinuity in an electrical circuit
75.  access to a radio channel by a citizens' band operator
76.  a variant spelling of brake
77.  boxing, wrestling a command by a referee for two opponents to separate
[Old English brecan; related to Old Frisian breka, Gothic brikan, Old High German brehhan, Latin frangere Sanskrit bhráj bursting forth]

break even
1.  (intr, adverb) to attain a level of activity, as in commerce, or a point of operation, as in gambling, at which there is neither profit nor loss
2.  accounting
 a.  the level of commercial activity at which the total cost and total revenue of a business enterprise are equal
 b.  (as modifier): breakeven prices

even1 (ˈiːvən)
adj (foll by with)
1.  level and regular; flat: an even surface
2.  on the same level or in the same plane (as): one surface even with another
3.  without variation or fluctuation; regular; constant: an even rate of progress
4.  not readily moved or excited; placid; calm: an even temper
5.  equally balanced between two sides: an even game
6.  equal or identical in number, quantity, etc: two even spoonfuls of sugar
7.  a.  (of a number) divisible by two
 b.  Compare odd characterized or indicated by such a number: maps are on the even pages
8.  relating to or denoting two or either of two alternatives, events, etc, that have an equal probability: an even chance of missing or catching a train
9.  having no balance of debt; neither owing nor being owed
10.  just and impartial; fair: an even division
11.  exact in number, amount, or extent: an even pound
12.  equal, as in score; level: now the teams are even
13.  maths See odd (of a function) unchanged in value when the sign of the independent variable is changed, as in y = z²
14.  even money
 a.  a bet in which the winnings are the same as the amount staked
 b.  (as modifier): the even-money favourite
15.  informal get even to exact revenge (on); settle accounts (with)
16.  formal, obsolete or law of even date of the same or today's date
17.  (intensifier; used to suggest that the content of a statement is unexpected or paradoxical): even an idiot can do that
18.  (intensifier; used with comparative forms): this is even better
19.  notwithstanding; in spite of: even having started late she soon caught him up
20.  used to introduce a more precise version of a word, phrase, or statement: he is base, even depraved
21.  used preceding a clause of supposition or hypothesis to emphasize the implication that whether or not the condition in it is fulfilled, the statement in the main clause remains valid: even if she died he wouldn't care
22.  archaic that is to say; namely (used for emphasis): he, even he, hath spoken these things
23.  archaic all the way; fully: I love thee even unto death
24.  (conjunction) even as at the very same moment or in the very same way that: even as I spoke, it thundered
25.  even so in spite of any assertion to the contrary: nevertheless
26.  to make or become even
[Old English efen; related to Old Norse jafn even, equal, Gothic ibns, Old High German eban]

even2 (ˈiːvən)
eve an archaic word for evening
[Old English ǣfen; related to Old Frisian ēvend, Old High German āband]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. efen "level," also "equal" (as in efeneald "of the same age"), from P.Gmc. *ebnaz (cf. Ger. eben, Goth. ibns). Etymologists are uncertain whether the original sense was "level" or "alike." Of numbers, from 1550s. Modern adverbial sense (introducing an extreme case of something more generally implied)
seems to have arisen 16c. from use of the word to emphasize identity ("Who, me?" "Even you," etc.) Sense of "on an equal footing" is from 1630s. Related: Evenly. Rhyming reduplication phrase even steven is attested from 1866; even break first recorded 1911. Evenhanded attested from c.1600; even-tempered from 1875.

O.E. brecan "to break, shatter, burst; destroy" (class IV strong verb; past tense bræc, pp. brocen), from P.Gmc. *brekan (cf. O.Fris. breka, Du. breken, O.H.G. brehhan, Ger. brechen, Goth. brikan), from PIE base *bhreg- "to break" (see fraction). Most modern senses
were in O.E. Meaning "to disclose" is from mid-15c. Break the ice is c.1600, in ref. to the "coldness" of encounters of strangers. Break wind first attested 1550s. To break (something) out (1890s) probably is an image from dock work, of freeing cargo before unloading it. Ironic theatrical good luck formula break a leg has parallels in Ger. Hals und Bein brechen "break your neck and leg," and It. in bocca al lupo. Evidence of a highly superstitious craft (also see Macbeth).

c.1300, "act of breaking," from break (v.). Sense of "short interval between spells of work (originally between lessons at school) is from 1861. Meaning "stroke of luck" is attested by 1911, probably an image from billiards (where the break that starts the game is attested
from 1865). Meaning "stroke of mercy" is from 1914. Musical sense, "improvised passage, solo" is attested from 1920s in jazz.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
even   (ē'vən)  Pronunciation Key 
Divisible by 2 with a remainder of 0, such as 12 or 876.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

break even

Neither gain nor lose in some venture, recoup the amount one invested. For example, If the dealer sells five cars a week, he'll break even. This expression probably came from one or another card game (some authorities say it was faro), where it meant to bet that a card would win and lose an equal number of times. It soon was transferred to balancing business gains and losses. Novelist Sinclair Lewis so used it in Our Mr. Wrenn (1914). The usage gave rise to the noun break-even point, for the amount of sales or production needed for a firm to recoup its investment. [Late 1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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