‘Break New Ground’: Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on April 23, 2024

Have you ever heard the saying 'break new ground' and wondered what it meant? If so, you're in the right place. In this article, we'll explore the meaning of this popular idiom, its possible origins, and how to use it in a sentence.

If you're just here to find out what it means, here's the short version:

  • To break new ground is to innovate, create something new, or do something in a completely different way.

What Does 'Break New Ground' Mean?

To 'break new ground' has both literal and figurative meanings. Initially, to break new ground was to dig into the earth as part of a construction project, for example, to level out the earth and build a new structure.

For example:

It's primarily used figuratively to express doing something that has never been done before, to pioneer or initiate a new activity, project, or idea.

For example:

The research team is set to break new ground in cancer treatment with their groundbreaking discoveries in immunotherapy. 

That's the thing about idioms; though they often start with a literal meaning, they mostly evolve into just the figurative sense being used.

Because it's a verb phrase, you can use it in different forms and tenses, including:

There's also an adjective version: groundbreaking. You can use this before a noun to modify it.

For example:

They are leading ground-breaking research into cancer treatment.

Where Does 'Break New Ground' Come From?

The idiom 'break new ground' originates in agriculture and construction. In a literal sense, breaking new ground refers to the process of plowing or digging into land that has not been cultivated or developed before. Farmers, for example, would break new ground when preparing a field for planting crops.

Over time, this literal meaning evolved into a figurative one. The idea of breaking new ground came to be used more broadly to describe any pioneering or innovative effort in various fields. The metaphorical sense of the idiom emerged as people began to apply the concept of exploring new, uncharted territory to areas beyond agriculture and construction, such as business, science, technology, and other creative endeavors.

As with many idioms, the shift from a literal to a figurative meaning likely occurred as language use evolved and people started applying familiar terms from one context to describe novel situations in another.

Examples in Sentences

Now that we've covered the meaning of this idiom and its origins, here are some example sentences that use it. I've included examples of the verb in its different forms, such as third-person singular, present participle, past indefinite, and past participle.

The company aims to break new ground in the smartphone market with cutting-edge features that have never been seen before.

As an artist, she is constantly breaking new ground, experimenting with unconventional materials and techniques.

The cruise company breaks new ground once again by including a bouncy castle on board.

The hotel chain broke new ground in renewable energy by using a revolutionary solar panel technology.

The historian's latest book has broken new ground in our understanding of ancient civilizations.

The film director is known for breaking new ground in storytelling, often pushing the boundaries of conventional filmmaking.

The fashion designer's avant-garde collection is expected to break new ground in the world of haute couture.

The educational program breaks new ground in online learning, incorporating interactive elements for a more engaging experience.

The international collaboration on climate change is poised to break new ground in fostering global peace.

Other Ways to Say 'Break New Ground'

There are plenty of different ways to say someone is being innovative. They're great to use if you're looking for alternative phrases. Here are some of them:

  • pioneer
  • discover
  • trailblaze
  • invent
  • make progress
  • chart new waters

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article about this popular idiom. To summarize, to 'break new ground' is to do or discover something new.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Check out our idioms blog for other idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!  

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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