break the ice

Idioms & Phrases

break the ice

  1. Make a start, pave the way, as in Newton's theories broke the ice for modern physics. This idiom alludes to breaking ice in a channel so that a ship can pass. [Early 1600s] Also see break ground.

  2. Relax a tense or very formal situation, as in Someone at the conference table will have to break the ice. [Early 1600s]

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