Break the ice means to do something that loosens up the formality of a situation, to relieve barriers that prevent people from getting better acquainted. One breaks the ice through conversation, sometimes a host will employ party games to help her guests get over the awkwardness of instigating conversation. The term break the ice first appears in the 1660s, referring to the coldness of encountering strangers. A century earlier, to break the ice meant to forge a path for others to follow, such as the path that an ice-breaking ship plows. Today, break the ice may also mean to forge a figurative path for others to follow. Related words are breaks the ice, broke the ice, breaking the ice.
This doesn’t mean anyone should start a Royals chant to break the ice the next time a City Council debate becomes contentious. (The Kansas City Star)
Japan, S. Korea break the ice, agree to address unresolved ‘comfort women’ issue (The World Tribune)
Schools open across the city on Tuesday, but teachers plan to break the ice with students and parents the day before. (The Eagle-Tribune)
Singing broke the ice better than the other activities, getting the group together faster by giving a boost to how close classmates felt towards each other right at the start of the course. (The South China Morning Post)
With Chase’s success as the first fake commander in chief, it broke the ice and opened the door for our other faux politicians to thrive. (USA Today)
The most annoying part about dating apps is breaking the ice. (The Business Insider)
Williams suggests breaking the ice by asking about your boss’s previous work experiences and what they learned in other positions, which allows for reflection and honesty without the pressure of talking about your current workplace. (Forbes)