survive into M.E.; the modern verb is attested from c.1650, mainly in Amer.Eng. Tear gas first recorded 1917; tear-jerker is attested from 1921 (first in ref. to writing of James Whitcomb Riley), on model of soda jerker.
"pull apart," O.E. teran (class IV strong verb; past tense tær, pp. toren), from P.Gmc. *teran (cf. O.S. terian, M.Du. teren "to consume," O.H.G. zeran "to destroy," Ger. zehren, Goth. ga-tairan "to tear, destroy"), from PIE *der- "tear" (cf. Skt. drnati "cleaves, bursts," Gk. derein "to flay,"
Arm. terem "I flay," O.C.S. dera "to burst asunder," Bret. darn "piece"). The O.E. past tense survived long enough to get into Bible translations as tare before giving place 17c. to tore, which is from the old pp. toren. Sense of "to pull by force" (away from some situation or attachment) is attested from 1297. The noun meaning "act of tearing" is attested from 1666. To be torn between two things (desires, loyalties, etc.) is from 1871.