Old English brecan "to divide solid matter violently into parts or fragments; to injure, violate (a promise, etc.), destroy, curtail; to break into, rush into; to burst forth, spring out; to subdue, tame" (class IV strong verb; past tense bræc, past participle brocen), from Proto-Germanic *brekanan (source also of Old Frisian breka, Dutch breken, Old High German brehhan, German brechen, Gothic brikan), from PIE root *bhreg- "to break."
Closely related to breach (n.), brake (n.1), brick (n.). The old past tense brake is obsolete or archaic; past participle is broken, but shortened form broke is attested from 14c. and was "exceedingly common" [OED] 17c.-18c.
Of bones in Old English. Formerly also of cloth, paper, etc. Meaning "escape by breaking an enclosure" is from late 14c. Intransitive sense "be or become separated into fragments or parts under action of some force" is from late 12c. Meaning "lessen, impair" is from late 15c. Meaning "make a first and partial disclosure" is from early 13c. Meaning "destroy continuity or completeness" in any way is from 1741. Of coins or bills, "to convert to smaller units of currency," by 1882. In reference to the heart from early 13c. (intransitive); to break (someone's) heart is late 14c.
Break bread "share food" (with) is from late 14c. To break ground is from 1670s as "to dig, plow," from 1709 in the figurative sense "begin to execute a plan." To break the ice "overcome the feeling of restraint in a new acquaintanceship" is from c. 1600, in reference to the "coldness" of encounters of strangers. Break wind first attested 1550s. To break (something) out (1890s) probably is an image from dock work, of freeing cargo before unloading it.
The ironic theatrical good luck formula break a leg (by 1948, said to be from at least 1920s) has parallels in German Hals- und Beinbruch "break your neck and leg," and Italian in bocca al lupo. Evidence of a highly superstitious craft (see Macbeth). According to Farmer & Henley, in 17c. the expression was used euphemistically, of a woman, "to have a bastard."
"move by turning and twisting," Old English windan "to turn, twist, plait, curl, brandish, swing" (class III strong verb; past tense wand, past participle wunden), from Proto-Germanic *windan "to wind" (source also of Old Saxon windan, Old Norse vinda, Old Frisian winda, Dutch winden, Old High German wintan, German winden, Gothic windan "to wind"), from PIE *wendh- "to turn, wind, weave" (source also of Latin viere "twist, plait, weave," vincire "bind;" Lithuanian vyti "twist, wind").
Related to wend, which is its causative form, and to wander. The past tense and past participle merged in Middle English. Meaning "to twine, entwine oneself around" is from 1590s; transitive sense of "turn or twist round and round (on something) is from c. 1300. Meaning "set a watch, clockwork, etc. in operating mode by tightening its spring" is from c. 1600. Wind down "come to a conclusion" is recorded from 1952; wind up "come to a conclusion" is from 1825; earlier in transitive sense "put (affairs) in order in advance of a final settlement" (1780). Winding sheet "shroud of a corpse" is attested from early 15c.
"air in motion," Old English wind "wind," from Proto-Germanic *winda- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch wind, Old Norse vindr, Old High German wind, German Wind, Gothic winds), from PIE *wē-nt-o‑ "blowing," suffixed (participial) form of root *we- "to blow."
Normal pronunciation evolution made this word rhyme with kind and rind (Donne rhymes it with mind and Thomas Moore with behind), but it shifted to a short vowel 18c., probably from influence of windy, where the short vowel is natural. A sad loss for poets, who now must rhyme it only with sinned and a handful of weak words. Symbolic of emptiness and vanity since late 13c.
I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind. [Ernest Dowson, 1896]
Meaning "breath" is attested from late Old English; especially "breath in speaking" (early 14c.), so long-winded, also "easy or regular breathing" (early 14c.), hence second wind in the figurative sense (by 1830), an image from the sport of hunting.
Winds "wind instruments of an orchestra" is from 1876. Figurative phrase which way the wind blows for "the current state of affairs" is suggested from c. 1400. To get wind of "receive information about" is by 1809, perhaps inspired by French avoir le vent de. To take the wind out of (one's) sails in the figurative sense (by 1883) is an image from sailing, where a ship without wind can make no progress. Wind-chill index is recorded from 1939. Wind energy from 1976. Wind vane from 1725.