What Does Break Away From Something Mean?

Break Away From Something Meaning

Definition: To sever ties with someone or something; to remove oneself from being part of a group.

This phrasal verb has a few different meanings.

One meaning is to tear yourself away from a situation or group and do something on your own, like when the American colonies broke away from England.

A second meaning is to attempt to physically get away from someone who is trying to hold you down.

A third meaning is to move quickly away from a group as in racing; a horse (or car, or person) can break away from the pack and lead.

Lastly, this phrase can describe the breaking away from concepts like tradition, routine, or authority. Henry VIII, for example, broke away from the Catholic Church

Origin of To Break Away From Something

breakaway definition Break away from is a phrasal verb from the first half of the 1500s. During medieval hunting, it was common to single out an animal from the herd and force it to break away from the pack, so that it could be killed.

Wilkie Collins, writing in 1870, demonstrates one of the early examples of this phrasal verb in his novel The Two Destinies:

  • My father himself took me to the carriage. I broke away from him, with a desperation which not even his resolution could resist.

Examples of To Break Away From Something

break way In the modern day, break away from is used in various contexts.

If one is breaking away from a group to work alone, it can be said,

  • It was hard for Anya to break away from her team, but she knew she had to compete on her own.

If one is physically breaking away from a person, it may be said,

  • My son broke away from my grip and ran towards the puppy.

And if one is breaking away from an organization or ideological idea, it may be said,

  • Jeanne broke away from the political party when they no longer represented her views.

More Examples

  • Conor broke away from a brief prepared statement to pay tribute to Scott, joking he had been a wonderful addition to the family – even though he was an Arsenal [soccer] fan. –The Sun
  • With that album, Brian Wilson [of the Beach Boys] broke away from some of the surfing, fun, and sun themes of earlier albums in favor of more personal themes and created an album that… raised pop music to a true art form. –Spartanburg Herald Journal


To break away from something means to sever ties and move in a different direction. It can be literal and mean physical movement away or figurative and mean an ideological shift in a different direction.