What Does Break A Record Mean?

Break a Record Meaning

Definition: To outdo the previous best as officially recorded.

This expression means to do better than any previous attempt made and recorded. This may be in sports, where a person outperforms the previous best and sets a new record, it may be in sales, where someone outsells all other previous salesmen, or it may be in weather, where a particular temperature is higher or lower than known recordings.

Origin of To Break A Record

broke the record meaning The origin of this phrase seems to be from the turn of the 20th century. There are numerous examples of it in both novels and newspapers from this time period, including this excerpt from the May 1895 edition of Harper’s Round Table:

  • If a man knows he has got to break the record even to get to third place, there will be good work done.

A later example can be found in The Romance of Aircraft, by Lawrence Yard Smith, which says,

  • Even in 1911 the Nieuport monoplane was breaking all records for speed.

The term comes from the idea that for a record to no longer exist it should be broken or destroyed. In modern times, with the new word smash to mean break, the same idea is expressed as smash a record.

Examples of To Break A Record

meaning of break a record In the modern day, it is common to talk about breaking records.

  • This year’s December snowfall broke the record here in Syracuse, NY, surpassing the amount from 1979.
  • My sister broke the school track record in the 800m this year.
  • They are trying to break the record for the most carol singers on the street at one time.

People also have begun to use record-breaking as an adjective to describe something that has broken a record, such as,

  • The number of carol singers on the street was record-breaking.

More Examples

  • On Jan. 13, the city broke a record daily high temperature – 79 degrees beat out the previous 75 degree record set in 1954. –Charleston Post Courier
  • In 2015, Pizza Hut broke a record for digital sales by halftime of the big game. –Wellington Daily News


To break a record is to outperform all previous attempts, and to surpass the previously recorded limit.