I read this on the BBC

Actress Meryl Streep has been honoured by the theatre where she began her career. The Oscar-winner was given a Monte Cristo Award from the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in New York on Monday. Streep said the theatre gave her a "break" in Waterford 40 years ago.

I wonder what a break in this context refers to?

  • Interesting how they put the word break in quotation marks in the original. That generally suggests an informal meaning of the word. Sure enough, in Collins, meaning 45 is tagged informal. It's also tagged mainly US, so a British publication would be more likely to use quotes, effectively acknowledging "this may be a somewhat unfamiliar usage of this word." – J.R. Apr 23 '14 at 9:22
  • Had you merely cited a dictionary with its 50 meanings, picked a few that you thought were good candidates, and said you were having a hard time figuring out which meaning of break this was, this may have have been upvoted instead of closed. Stack Exchange communities usually like to know you've at least thought about the question before you asked it, rather that use us as a first line of help. We have some advice posted in our meta area that might help you out for next time. – J.R. Apr 23 '14 at 9:25

In this context, "break" is synonymous with "chance" or "opportunity".

She got her big break at the Waterford.

Meaning that is where she broke into show business.

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It's hard to tell what "break" means here. Because this is an actress, my best guess is they're talking about break in the sense of a career opportunity. From Oxford Dictionaries:

break (n) - an opportunity or chance, especially one leading to professional success

The term "her big break" is sometimes heard when referring to actresses and other performing artists. It means that the person used to be unknown in the industry and was enjoying little success, and then something happened, the "big break", and after that they became famous and successful.

I'm guessing that Meryl Streep used to act in a play at this Eugene O'Neill Theater back when she wasn't famous, and now that she is famous they are presenting her with an award.

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