Tear Definition


Tear Definition

Tear is a homonym – a word that has two different meanings! In this case, the homonym is not also a homophone – or a word that sounds the same. The first definition of tear is pronounced with a long A sound (as in care): like tare. The second definition of tear is pronounced with a long E sound (as in sheep): like teer.


Definition 1: Rip

If you pronounce tear like tare, it is a verb and noun. It means to tear something apart, and make something that was one entity become two. This could be physically tearing a piece of paper up, or emotionally tearing apart two people in a relationship.

As long as something that was whole is now in pieces, it has been torn. If you use this word as a noun, it refers to the product of the tearing process. If you accidentally tear your shirt, for example, the hole that results is a tear in the shirt.

Definition 2: Crying

If you pronounce the word as teer, it is a noun. It is usually referring to a raindrop shape or a drop of water, specifically when you are crying. Whether it is out of happiness or sadness, shedding a tear means that you have water running down your face.


Definition 1: Rip

  • Bobby, I asked you to be careful when you walked past the tree but you come back to me with a giant tear in your pants?
  • After I read the letter that he sent me, I will tear up the paper because I don’t want anyone else to know what he said.

Definition 2: Crying

  • I could feel the tears running down my face when she told me that she thought breaking up at the end of the year would be the best choice for both of us.
  • The tears of joy streamed down my face as I realized I had won the grand prize!


Definition 1: Rip

Kevin: Hi, I wanted to get a quote on what it would take to mend this tear. I was walking past a hook or something when it caught my jacket and produced a giant tear!

Anna: Okay, no problem. Let me take a look at it. When would you need it by?

Kevin: I was planning on wearing this jacket when I went home this weekend, but if that is not enough time I guess next week would be soon enough.

Anna: That shouldn’t be a problem for us. We are a bit busy this week but next week should work fine! We need some time to look for the right materials to mend the tear, so that it would look good as new when we’re finished.

Kevin: Alright, would I have to pay extra for those materials?

Anna: No, the price is included in our quote.

Kevin: Great! Thank you so much, this was my favorite jacket.

Anna: You’re welcome! Our receptionist should give you a call when the tear is mended.

Definition 2: Crying

Interviewer: So how does it feel to win your first gold medal?

Champion: Honestly, it doesn’t even feel real yet, I can feel the tears coming but I think I won’t really feel it sink in until I cry a little.

Interviewer: (Laughs) You need to shed some tears before this feels real?

Champion: As cheesy or weird as it sounds, yes. Playing ping pong has always been a very emotional experience for me, as I always hate to lose. When I was young, I used to cry all the time when I lose. There is no shame in a few tears.

Interviewer: I definitely agree! Though this time those tears will be happy tears for your gold medal, not because you were frustrated by your performance, right?

Champion: Fortunately, yes.

Other words you can create: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc (ex: mug – mugger)

Definition 1: Rip


Tearing is the gerund (-ing form) of tear.

  • He is tearing the paper.
  • If you are not careful, letting the dog run wild in the house means that you are content with it tearing everything in sight – especially shoes!

Definition 2: Crying


Someone who is teary has tears running down their face. This word always refers to crying – not to ripping something. They are crying, and it can be a significant sobbing or the state of someone after they have been crying, and there are tear stains on their face.

  • The teary widow of the soldier made everyone curious about what had happened.
  • Patrick did not mean to get teary when he started speaking on stage, but when he got to the story about his grandparents, he could not stop crying.


Tearily is the adverb form of tear, and like teary, it only applies to the crying definition of the word.

  • Dan’s mom tearily accepted the prize that her son had won.
  • The family tearily gazed up at their new house that the community had come together to fundraise for and build for them.

Tearing (up)

Tearing is the gerund of tear. When talking about crying, it is almost always followed by the preposition up. To tear up means to start crying.

  • Ron began tearing up when he heard that he had failed his last math test.
  • Ellie is trying to stop her brother from tearing up when their parents told them they were proceeding with the divorce plans.


Definition 1: Rip

Tear your heart out

To tear someone’s heart out means to make them inconsolably sad. They will be so devastated that it will create a lot of heartache for them. If it hurts so much that it feels like someone has torn their heart out from their chest, it means you have torn their heart out.

  • I absolutely cannot let my mother know that I just lost my job; it would tear her heart out!
  • Trevor really needs to tell his wife that he lost their investment money, but he is too afraid that the news would tear her heart out.

Tear limb from limb

To tear someone limb from limb is a torture technique. It means literally to pull off someone’s arms and legs, but the speaker usually does not mean this literally. Instead, it is given as a threat. If someone does something bad, they will have their arms and legs ripped off so they want to try to avoid that as much as possible.

  • The drug cartel threatened to tear Fidel limb from limb if he did not pay them for “protection”, so he decided that he had to move.
  • Torture techniques of tearing someone limb from limb have been banned because of the stress they cause to someone, even if they are the worst person alive.

Tear into (a place)

If you tear into a place, it means that you go through the entire area, typically looking for something. It is a metaphorical phrase because you will probably leave a mess, making it look like you have torn things from their regular places or broken other things. It does not have to be a place, as long as you are picking into the details of something.

  • The other lawyer wanted the chance to to tear into his argument before the jury was allowed to make their decision.
  • The police tore into the CEO’s office, looking for evidence that he tried to tell shareholders the stock price would drop before it actually happened.

Tear to shreds

To tear something to shreds means to rip it apart. This can be both literally and metaphorically. You can tear a piece of paper to shreds, or you can tear someone’s confidence to shreds, for example.

  • I hoped that typing up the terms of the contract would make my supervisor happy, but he only tore it to shreds without even looking at it.
  • Tom felt that Steve had completely torn him to shreds when he told him that his company would no longer be welcome in his household.

Wear and tear

The wear and tear of something is the natural process of something getting older. As it is used, it will be weather and torn in places. For something like books, this is visible in the crinkles on book pages or the rips in the corners. For a person’s muscles, it might be the decrease in muscle strength or the flexibility of them.

  • After two years, the amount of wear and tear on a produce can be drastically different depending on the quality of the materials that make it up and the care that you put into it.
  • Some wear and tear in anything is normal, but you can tell the difference easily between that and deliberate sabotage.

Definition 2: Crying

Blink tears back

If someone is blinking their tears back, it means that they are trying not to cry. This is usually something you can see in their eyes. You should be able to see water in their eyes that have not yet become fallen tears, but are threatening to at any moment.

  • As his mother dropped him off at kindergarten for the first day of school, she was blinking back tears.
  • When Mariah heard the bad news, she started bawling; she couldn’t even blink her tears back.

Move someone to tears

To move someone to tears means that you cause them to cry, but because of an emotional story rather than because they are sad. Many times, it is movies, TV shows, speeches, or other forms of storytelling that move people to tears.

  • He had never been a very romantic person, but listening to his grandparents talk about their meeting and marriage moved him to tears.
  • If you try to write a speech that will move someone to tears, you need to start with a clear, genuine story that triggers a variety of emotions.

Shed a tear

To shed a tear means to cry.

  • Even if he was my father, I refuse to shed a tear at the news of his death because he was a terrible person.
  • Tracey was surprised that no one shed a tear at the ceremony.

Reduce someone to tears

To reduce someone to tears means that you move them emotionally or make them feel so bad that they start to cry.

  • I have never seen my boss so angry as when he reduced Brandon to tears.
  • Luke had no idea what the movie was about, so he was caught off guard and reduced to tears at the end of the film.

Tear jerker

If something is a tear jerker, it means that it often makes people cry. This is usually reserved for things that allow you to be emotionally moved.

  • The movie had been advertised as a real tear jerker, and I heard several people crying in the movie theater when I went to see it.
  • If you are looking for a good cry, just watch the last episode of the TV show again; it’s an absolute tear jerker.

Related phrasal verbs:

Definition 1: Rip

Tear up

To tear something up means to rip it to pieces.

  • Brian was so mad that he tore up his own shirt.
  • I cannot believe you would say that about someone; tear up all your notes and forget about it!

Definition 2: Crying

Tear up

To tear up means to start to cry. This could lead to a huge bout of crying, or could just be a little bit of tears.

  • Amber started to tear up at the memory of her late dog.
  • The sound of the violin made her tear up

To be in tears

If you are in the middle of crying, especially if you are crying pretty hard, you are in tears.

  • Toddlers are the hardest to handle when they are in tears.
  • Vincent awkwardly sat at the back of the class because he saw that the teacher was in tears but did not know what to do about it.

Related idioms:

Definition 2: Crying

Blood, sweat, and tears

If you put your blood, sweat, and tears into something, it means that you have put everything you have into it. It could be your own business that you have worked on every day of your life, or even your children who have taken so much of your time and energy to raise.

  • “I put my blood, sweat, and tears into this project as much as anyone else! How can you do this to me?” Steve shouted at the other partners of the company.
  • Ginny’s blood, sweat, and tears paid off when she earned an A for the final grade of her engineering math class!

Bore someone to tears, or be bored to tears

If you bore someone to tears, it means that you are so boring that you make someone want to cry. There is no way to redeem yourself because what you are doing lacks any kind of interesting element.

  • The professor bored all his students to tears when he just read his presentation slides word for word and didn’t even look up at the students.
  • The keynote speaker for the conference did not once notice that his audience was completely bored to tears, and just kept on talking.

Burst into tears

If you or someone else bursts into tears, it means that they suddenly start crying very loudly. This is often the case with children and toddlers, but can also be the case with adults who are already in a bad mood.

  • Marie burst into tears when her mother told her she could not eat the extra piece of cake.
  • June was already having a bad day, and she burst into tears when her boss pointed out a mistake that she has made on an important document.

On the verge of tears

To be on the verge of tears means that you are very close to crying. Just the smallest thing that goes wrong would result in lots of crying!

  • Her son was on the verge of tears on the airplane, so she decided to just give him the candy to keep him from drawing attention to them.
  • I was on the verge of tears when I walked home and did not want to talk to anyone.

Crying crocodile tears

If someone is crying crocodile tears, they are insincere. They are trying to trick you somehow. While most of the time the crocodile tears refers to a display of grief, such as a person crying at a funeral even though they hated the person who died, they can be any emotion. This idiom comes from the fact that crocodiles have tear ducts.

However, they cry to wet their eyes (if they have been on land too long) rather than to express any type of emotion.

  • Looking back, I should have known that Amanda had been crying crocodile tears instead of real ones, because she immediately asked how my uncle’s assets would be divided.
  • Sometimes it takes someone else to point out that another person is crying crocodile tears for you to notice.

Synonyms for Tear:

Definition 1: Rip


Rip can be both a noun and a verb, just like tear. To rip something means to make a hole in it. Likewise, if something has a large rip in it, it has a large tear or hole.

  • Ronny was so angry that he ripped the phone book in half!
  • Andy found a large rip in the middle of his favorite shirt, and had to throw it away.


To shred something means to tear it apart – but to do so very thoroughly. In other words, shredding produces a lot of small bits and pieces of things! Most of the time it refers to paper, but things like fabric or hope can be literally or metaphorically shredded.

  • My grandfather accidentally shredded the contract that I needed, so I spent all night trying to put the pieces of the papers back together!
  • You should shred any papers that you want to throw away or recycle because they could contain important information that would be dangerous in the wrong hands!


To slash something means to make a large cut in it. It is so named because the slash symbol (/) looks like a long hole in something. If you slash your shirt, you cut it into two, usually vertically. You could also slash prices or the competition, which means you make them drastically lower or worse.

  • During Black Friday, stores all over the United States slash prices on things such as TVs and clothes, so you can get amazing deals.
  • I walked around the city alone at night and was almost slashed by someone carrying a knife.


Slit can be either a noun or verb, meaning tear. Typically, a slit is a small, vertical hole (think of what would happen if you run a knife through a piece of paper).

  • There was a small slit in the sock, but he had no other pairs of clean socks so he wore them anyway.
  • I wanted to slit the tape so I could open the box but could not find a knife or pair of scissors to do it!


A hole is a hollow place. To hole is to make a hole in something.

  • Ryan discovered a mysterious hole in the middle of ground and called his parents in to investigate it.
  • In order to hang something on the wall, you need to hole both it and the wall.

Definition 2: Crying


To weep is to cry. It can be a typical cry, or it can be a very big fit of crying.

  • Yvonne wept at the sight of her husband, back safe from the war.
  • Jim was weeping when he accepted his trophy because all of his hard work and sacrifices had finally paid off for him.


To sob is also to cry. Usually it is a relatively big fit of crying.

  • After receiving the bad news, he could not stop sobbing, even when it was time to go to work.
  • Ron tried his best to comfort the little boy in the class that was sobbing in the corner, but there seemed to be nothing he could do to help.


To wail means to cry and yell. Someone who is wailing is typically whining as well, trying to get something that is being denied to them. They want attention from others, so they spend part of their time trying to be as loud as possible.

  • The wail of the children being dropped off at the kindergarten for the first day of school could be heard over a mile away.
  • The video of her as a toddler, wailing and kicking, was a big hit at her graduation party.


To bawl means that you are crying very hard and strong. Sometimes this is because there have been many things that led up to this point, making you let out all your frustration and anger at once.

  • I have no idea what happened, but when I told Taylor there was no more sugar for the coffee, he started to bawl.
  • The losing team had several players who were bawling like a baby.
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