What does the idiom "break even" mean?

The expression break even is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the break even idiom.

Meaning of "break even"


The idiom 'break even' refers to a situation wherein a venture does not lead to a net gain or loss, due to balance between costs and revenue. This can be applied to any situation involving business, finance, or investments, where the amount of money spent is equal to the amount of money earned back.


The exact origin of the phrase 'break even' is uncertain; however, its use has been recorded as early as the mid-1900s. The phrase is likely derived from the phrase 'break down even', which has been used for centuries to describe a situation where expenses are accurately weighed against profits. In the early 20th century, this phrase was modified to 'break even', which then became the idiom that is still used today.


The phrase 'break even' can be used in a variety of contexts. It is most commonly used to describe a situation in which the cost of an investment or enterprise is equal to the revenue it has generated. It can also be used to describe any situation where there is no net gain or loss, such as a business that is not making any profits but is not losing money either. Additionally, it can be used to describe a situation where two competing interests or goals are reaching an equal level of success or failure.

Example Sentences

  • After months of hard work and investment, the company finally managed to break even.
  • We were able to break even on our project, so we weren't at a loss.
  • The two teams were playing to a break even score until the last minute.

The meanings of the words in the "break even" idiom

From Shakespeare to Social Media: The Evolution of English Idioms

English idioms have been around for centuries, with many originating from sources like literature, mythology, and everyday life. Shakespeare, for example, coined many phrases that are still used today, such as "break the ice" and "heart of gold." Over time, new idioms have emerged, with social media and popular culture providing rich sources of inspiration. For instance, the phrase "throwing shade" came into use in the 1990s thanks to ball culture, but has since been popularized by social media.


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