What does the idiom "Break the ice" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does Break the ice mean? In what situations is Break the ice used?

Meaning of "Break the ice"


Break the ice is an idiom that means to do or say something to start communication in a group or conversation that is uncomfortable or awkward. It is because, when people are feeling uncomfortable, it is often like a wall of ice that separates them and needs to be broken for meaningful communication to take place.


The phrase “break the ice” has its origin in the literal sense. The idiom was first used during the 16th century when the open waters of the Baltic Sea were generally frozen during winter. People would break the thick layers of ice that had formed over the sea to clear a path for sailing ships to pass through. Over time, this phrase was used to refer to the act of breaking down barriers and opening a path for communication.


The phrase “break the ice” is often used as a way to start conversations and make people feel more comfortable. It can be used in both formal and informal settings, and is most useful when people are meeting for the first time or when the atmosphere of the gathering is somewhat tense. It is also commonly used when a group of people is trying to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

Example Sentences

  • I'm always so nervous when I meet new people, so I like to break the ice with a joke.
  • I'll try to break the ice and get everyone talking - it should help us come up with some interesting ideas.

The meanings of the words in the "Break the ice" idiom

Idioms have a common language

"The early bird catches the worm" is an English idiom that means that those who wake up early and start their day early are more likely to succeed. A similar idiom in Spanish is "El que madruga, Dios le ayuda," which translates to "God helps those who rise early." This idiom emphasizes the importance of starting the day early in order to achieve success.


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