In dictionaries, TEAR UP means only separate in pieces. Can it also mean burst into tears? What does it mean here?

Shea took a step back, bumping into the table of tomatoes, knocking one to the ground. 
“I’ve always wanted to apologize to you,” Shea said. He looked like he was **tearing up**.  

Shea is talking to Bittner. He was there when Bittner's daughter died and couldn't do anything. Now, years later, he wants to apologize but Bittner blames him. Shea is not a very strong person and I think he would cry in this situation. Is that what tear up means?



As Mooseman says, "tearing up" here means "getting tears in his eyes", that is, starting to cry.

"Tearing up" can also mean to rip something into pieces.

While the word "tearing" in both cases is spelled the same, it is pronounced differently. When you speak of crying, the word "tear" rhymes with "steer" and "fear". When you speak of ripping, "tear" rhymes with "bare" and "chair". See this page -- http://www.thefreedictionary.com/tear -- which gives both definitions and has icons you can click to get the pronunciation of each.


"Tearing" in this context is the verb form of tear:

a drop of clear salty liquid secreted from glands in a person's eye when they cry or when the eye is irritated.

"Tearing up" here means "starting to cry".

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