I often hear this usage of "break" in criminal documentaries and I don't know what it means exactly. Here's an example:

In the house, police get another break when they find Kacie's discarded note.

I checked all of the meaning of "break", the closest meaning was:

An often sudden piece of luck, especially good luck: finally got the big break in life.

So does it mean like police got lucky when they found the note? It sounds more like clue by looking at context "get another clue" but I don't know.

  • Yes, that is exactly what it means. – tchrist Apr 19 '15 at 12:00
  • 1
    Yep, "get a break" means, roughly, "have a piece of good luck". Note that there are several other meanings of "break", but in the context of "get a break" the meaning is reasonably unambiguous. – Hot Licks Apr 19 '15 at 12:00
  • @HotLicks In this particular case, it might be the break of "break in the case": an essential clue or piece of evidence which opens avenues of investigation previously hidden or inaccessible. – Dan Bron Apr 19 '15 at 12:46
  • @DanBron - I would guess there are several idioms derived from the meaning "to disrupt the order or compactness of" (which is one of about 40 meanings Merriam-Webster lists). The "break" in "get a break" and "break in the case" then comes from a change in the (presumably less than ideal) routine sequence of events up to that point. – Hot Licks Apr 19 '15 at 12:59

First of all

break = favorable opportunity

Now for the meaning: search Google Books with:

"get a break" idiom

and you'll get many idiom dictionaries explaining it. Drill down into one of them:

get a break

Obtain a favorable opportunity; get special consideration or treatment.

For example,

The understudy finally got a break when the star became ill,


The new price is higher, but you are getting a break on service.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Second Edition - Page 163 Christine Ammer - 2013

  • Thanks. As a non-native speaker aware of the meaning of "giving a break", I always thought that getting a break meant, you know, that someone actually gave you a break. – s.m Apr 19 '15 at 21:15

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