Her face broke out in a grin as she nodded, her ponytail swinging. (source)

Lee broke out in a grin and went on. (source)

Wondering what the jocularity was about, Matsuzaka finally noticed the bubble as it fell off his hat and he broke out in a grin. (source)

I have seen "break out in a grin" in several places. The closest entry in dictionaries is

(of a person or a part of their body) be suddenly affected by an unpleasant sensation or condition.
"something had caused him to break out in a rash"

My understanding is "He broke out in a grin" means something like "His face broke into a grin". Is that correct? Besides "grin", what are some other words that can be used in this expression?

1 Answer 1


The meaning is explained by this definition of the phrasal verb 'break into' from M-WD.

break into

1 : to begin with or as if with a sudden throwing off of restraint

Examples. broke into tears; face breaking into a smile; the horse breaks into a gallop

'Break out in' is just an alternative way of saying 'break into'.

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