Old English bryce "a fracture, act of breaking," from Proto-Germanic *brukiz (source also of Old Frisian breke "a burst, crack, demolition (of a house)," Old Saxon bruki, Old High German bruh, Middle Dutch broke), a noun from *brekanan (source of Old English brecan "to shatter, burst; injure, violate, destroy, curtail;" see break (v.)). The English word was influenced by Old French cognate breche "breach, opening, gap," which is from Frankish or another Germanic source. Ultimately from PIE root *bhreg- "to break."
Figurative sense of "infraction, violation, a breaking of rules, etc." was in Old English. Meaning "opening made by breaking" is from late 14c. Meaning "rupture of friendly relations" is from 1570s. Breach of contract is from at least 1660s; breach of peace "violation of public order" is from 1670s; breach of promise (usually promise of marriage) is from 1580s.
updated on December 05, 2018