Breach “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “breach” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (6th edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and “Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:





A break; a breaking; a violation; the violation of an obligation, engagement or duty; a hernia.

  • Breach of contract: a failure without legal excuse to perform any promise which forms a whole or a part of a contract, including the refusal of a party to recognize the existence of the contract or the doing of something inconsistent with its existence [National City Bank v. Erskine & Sones, 158 Ohio St 450, 49 Ohio Ops 395, 110 NE2d 598]; a nonperformance of any contractual duty of immediate performance; the breach may be total or partial, and may take place by failure to perform acts promised, by prevention, or hindrance, or by repudiation [Restatement, Contracts § 312].


  1. The violation of an obligation, engagement or duty; as a breach of covenant is the non-performance or violation of a covenant; the breach of a promise is non-performance of a promise the breach of a duty, is the refusal or neglect to execute an office or public trust, according to law.

  2. Breaches of a contract are single or continuing breaches. The former are those which are committed at one single time [Skin. 367; Carth. 289]. A continuing breach is one committed at different times, as, if a covenant to repair be broken at one time, and the same covenant be again broken, it is a continuing breach [Moore 242; 1 Leon. 62; 1 Salk 141; Holt 178; Lord Raym. 1125]. When a covenant running with the land is assigned after a single breach, the right of action for such breach does not pass to the assignee but if it be assigned after the commencement of a continuing breach, the right of action then vests in such assignee [Cro. Eliz. 863; 8 Taunt. 227; 2 Moore, 164; 1 Leon 62].

  3. In general the remedy for breaches of contracts, or quasi contracts, is by a civil action.


The breaking or violating of a law, right, or duty, either by commission or omission.

  • In contracts: the violation or non-fulfillment of an obligation, contract, or duty.

    • A continuing breach occurs where the state of affairs, or the specific act, constituting the breach, endures for a considerable period of time, or is repeated at short intervals. A constructive breach of contract takes place when the party bound to perform disables himself from performance by some act, or declares, before the time comes, that he will not perform.

  • In pleading: this name is sometimes given to that part of th declaration which alleges the violation of the defendant’s promise or duty, immediately preceding the ad danmum clause.

    • Breach of close: the unlawful or unwarrantable entry on another person’s soil, land, or close [3 BL. Comm. 209].

    • Breach of covenant: the nonperformance of any covenant agreed to be performed, or the doing of any act covenanted not be done [Holthouse].

    • Breach of duty: in a general sens,e any violation or omission of a legal or moral duty. More particularly, the neglect or failure to fulfill in a just and proper manner the duties of an office or fiduciary employment.

    • Breach of pound: the breaking any pound or place where cattle or goods distrained are deposited, in order to take them back [3 Bl. Comm. 146].

    • Breach of privilege: an act or default in violation of the privilege of either house of parliament, of congress, or of a state legislature.

    • Breach of promise: violation of a promise; chiefly used as an elliptical expression for “breach of promise of marriage.”

    • Breach of the peace: a violation of the public tranquility and order. The offense of breaking or disturbing the public peace by any riotous, forcible, or unlawful proceeding [4 Bl. Comm. 142, et seq.; People v. Bartz, 53 Mich. 493, 19 N.W. 161; State v. White, 18 R. I. 473, 28 Atl. 968; People v. Wallace, 85 App. Div. 170, 83 N. Y. Supp. 130; Scougale v. Sweet, 124 Mich. 311, 82 N. W. 1061]. A constructive breach of the peace is an unlawful act which, though wanting the elements of actual violence or injury to any person, is yet inconsistent with the peaceable and orderly conduct of society. Various kinds of misdemeanors are included in this general designation, such as sending challenges to fight, going armed in public without lawful reason and in a threatening manner, etc. An apprehended breach of the peace is caused by the conduct of a man who threatens another with violence or physical injury, or who goes about in public with dangerous and unusual weapons in a threatening or alarming manner, or who publishes an aggravated libel upon another, etc.

    • Breach of trust: any act done by a trustee contrary to the terms of his trust, or in excess of his authority and to the detriment of the trust; or the wrongful omission by a trustee of any act required of him by the terms of the trust. Also the wrongful misappropriation by a trustee of any fund or property which had been lawfully committed to him in a fiduciary character.

    • Breach of warranty: in real property law and the law of insurance. The failure or falsehood of an affirmative promise or statement, or the non-performance of an executory stipulation [Hendricks v. Insurance Co., 8 Johns (N. Y.) 13; Fitzgerald v. Ben. Ass’n, 39 App. Div. 251, 56 N. Y. Supp. 1005; Stewart v. Drake, 9 N. J. Law, 139].



1. The act of breaking; or state of being broken; a rupture; a break; a gap; the space between the severed parts of a solid body parted by violence; as a breach in a garment, or in a wall.
2. The violation of a law; the violation or non-fulfillment of a contract; the non-performance of a moral duty; non-performance of duty being a breach of obligation, as well as a positive transgression or violation.
Every breach of the public engagements is hurtful to public credit.
3. An opening in a coast. [Not usual.]
4. Separation between friends by means of enmity; difference; quarrel.
5. Infraction; injury; invasion; as a breach upon kingly power.
6. Bereavement; loss of a friend and its consequent affliction.
7. A violation of the public peace, as by a riot, affray, or any tumult which is contrary to law, and destructive to the public tranquillity, is called a breach of the peace.


BREACH, v.t. To make a breach, or opening.

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