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[buhst] /bʌst/
verb (used without object)
  1. to burst.
  2. to go bankrupt.
  3. to collapse from the strain of making a supreme effort:
    She was determined to make straight A's or bust.
  1. Draw Poker. to fail to make a flush or straight by one card.
  2. Blackjack. to draw cards exceeding the count of 21.
verb (used with object)
  1. to burst.
  2. to bankrupt; ruin financially.
to demote, especially in military rank or grade:
He was busted from sergeant to private three times.
to tame; break:
to bust a bronco.
  1. to place under arrest:
    The gang was busted and put away on narcotics charges.
  2. to subject to a police raid:
    The bar has been busted three times for selling drinks to minors.
  1. to hit.
  2. to break; fracture:
    She fell and busted her arm.
a failure.
Informal. a hit; sock; punch:
He got a bust in the nose before he could put up his hands.
a sudden decline in the economic conditions of a country, marked by an extreme drop in stock-market prices, business activity, and employment; depression.
  1. an arrest.
  2. a police raid.
Informal. a drinking spree; binge.
  1. a very weak hand.
  2. Bridge. a hand lacking the potential to take a single trick.
Informal. bankrupt; broke.
Verb phrases
bust up, Informal.
  1. to break up; separate:
    Sam and his wife busted up a year ago.
  2. to damage or destroy:
    Soldiers got in a fight and busted up the bar.
bust ass, Slang: Vulgar. to fight with the fists; strike or thrash another.
bust on, Slang.
  1. to attack physically; beat up.
  2. to criticize or reprimand harshly.
  3. to make fun of or laugh at; mock.
  4. to inform on.
bust one's ass, Slang: Vulgar. to make an extreme effort; exert oneself.
Origin of bust2
1755-65; variant of burst, by loss of r before s, as in ass2, bass2, passel, etc.
Usage note
Historically bust is derived from a dialect pronunciation of burst and is related to it much as cuss is related to curse. Bust is both a noun and a verb and has a wide range of meanings for both uses. Many are slang or informal. A few, as “a decline in economic conditions, depression,” are standard. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for busted up
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Itll just mean that you and Tony will have a serious falling-out, and the crowd will get busted up.

    Deering of Deal Latta Griswold
  • Some new company had it made for their machinery and they busted up.

    Dick Hamilton's Fortune Howard R. Garis
  • De Fed'ruls is in charge and de whole place seem lak, is plum' busted up and distracted.

    Back Home Irvin S. Cobb
  • They'd see that in a minute, 'cause we busted up that cement considerable.

    The Blind Lion of the Congo Elliott Whitney
  • Dem Yankees went in de big house an' dey tored an' busted up all dey pleased, dey eben throwed de clothes all ober de yard.

  • It was stored away, for the company that had "busted up," as Mart sometimes called it, had no further use for it.

  • "You busted up our breakfast," said the Kid, in an aggrieved tone.

    Heart's Desire Emerson Hough
  • Many a good, honest, piratical enterprise has been busted up by concealment and lack of confidence.

    Aladdin & Co. Herbert Quick
British Dictionary definitions for busted up


the chest of a human being, esp a woman's bosom
a sculpture of the head, shoulders, and upper chest of a person
Word Origin
C17: from French buste, from Italian busto a sculpture, of unknown origin


verb busts, busting, busted, bust
to burst or break
to make or become bankrupt
(transitive) (of the police) to raid, search, or arrest: the girl was busted for drugs
(transitive) (US & Canadian) to demote, esp in military rank
(transitive) (US & Canadian) to break or tame (a horse, etc)
(transitive) (mainly US) to punch; hit
bust a gut, See gut (sense 9)
a raid, search, or arrest by the police
(mainly US) a punch; hit
(US & Canadian) a failure, esp a financial one; bankruptcy
a drunken party
go bust, to become bankrupt
Word Origin
C19: from a dialect pronunciation of burst
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for busted up



1690s, "sculpture of upper torso and head," from French buste (16c.), from Italian busto "upper body," from Latin bustum "funeral monument, tomb," originally "funeral pyre, place where corpses are burned," perhaps shortened from ambustum, neuter of ambustus "burned around," past participle of amburere "burn around, scorch," from ambi- "around" + urere "to burn." Or perhaps from Old Latin boro, the early form of classical Latin uro "to burn." Sense development in Italian is probably from Etruscan custom of keeping dead person's ashes in an urn shaped like the person when alive. Meaning "bosom" is by 1884.

variant of burst (n.), 1764, American English. For loss of -r-, cf. ass (n.2). Originally "frolic, spree;" sense of "sudden failure" is from 1842. Meaning "police raid or arrest" is from 1938. Phrase ______ or bust as an emphatic expression attested by 1851 in British depictions of Western U.S. dialect. Probably from earlier expression bust (one's) boiler, by late 1840s, a reference to steamboat boilers exploding when driven too hard.


"to burst," 1806, variant of burst (v.); for loss of -r-, cf. ass (n.2). Meaning "go bankrupt" is from 1834. Meaning "break into" is from 1859. The slang meaning "demote" (especially in a military sense) is from 1918; that of "place under arrest" is from 1953 (earlier "to raid" from Prohibition). In card games, "to go over a score of 21," from 1939. Related: Busted; busting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for busted up



  1. Out of funds; destitute; broke (1840s+)
  2. A police raid: One whiff of marijuana and we get a bust (1930s+)
  3. An arrest; collar: Beating a Bust: Two Views (1918+)
  4. That one bust decked me
  5. A failure; fiasco: My try for her sweet favors was a total bust (1840s+)
  6. A person who fails; loser, nonstarter: At baseball I was a risible bust (1920s+)
  7. A spree; drinking bout: took his paycheck and went on a bust (1840+)


  1. To break: I busted my nose (1806+)
  2. o disperse or chase a rival street gang (1950s+ Street gang)
  3. To reduce in rank; demote: He got busted from buck sergeant to buck private (late 1800s+ Army)
  4. To tame a wild horse for riding: Two rides will usually bust a bronco so that the average cow-puncher can use him (1890s+ Cowboys)
  5. o break open a safe, vault, etc; also, burglarize a place (1890s+ Underworld)
  6. : I've been busted, bring bail
  7. To catch someone in an illegal or immoral act (1950s+ Teenagers)
  8. To hit someone: She busted me in the kishkes (1808+)
  9. To fail an examination or course; flunk •The standard form burst is found in the 1850s: I miserably busted the econ final (1900+ College students)

Related Terms

beer bust, go broke

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with busted up
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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