Intermediate+ Word of the Day: split

split (verb, noun, adjective) /splɪt/ LISTEN

You might know already that split means ‘to divide into separate portions’ or ‘to separate.’ It can also mean ‘to share,’ if you divide something between different people in a group. As a slang term, to split means ‘to leave.’ As a noun, a split is a crack or, in US English, a piece of wood separated by splitting. Split is also a dessert, an ice-cream dish made with a split banana, ice cream, flavored syrup, and chopped nuts (in the UK, this is only used in the combined form “banana split”). As an adjective, split refers to something divided or parted.

Example sentences

  • Tania split the chocolate bar in two.
  • The path split and we had to decide whether to go left or right.
  • Sabina and Veronica split the bill.
  • John was here earlier, but he had to split.
  • There is a split in the wood near the bottom of the door.
  • Oliver picked up a split of wood.
  • Diana ordered a banana split.
  • Tim ended up with a split lip after falling off his bike.

Words often used with split

split the difference: to meet in the middle between two amounts. Example: “I was asking $5,000 for my car and the buyer offered me $4,000. In the end we split the difference and agreed on $4,500.”

split hairs: to make unimportant distinctions. Example: “OK, maybe I should have made it clearer that I was only talking about mainstream 80s music, but you knew what I meant. Stop splitting hairs!”

split up: if you say a couple has split up, that means the two partners have ended their relationship. Example: “Mark and Rachel had grown apart and decided to split up.” You can also just use split in this sense, without up, and a split is the separation. Example: “Sandra and Anne aren’t together anymore, but it was an amicable split and they are still friends.”

In pop culture

Listen to Louis Prima singing “Banana Split for My Baby” here:

Additional information

In the US, a split is a gymnastic movement where someone separates their legs until they are at right angles to the body. In the UK, people would usually use the plural and a definite article, calling the position the splits. This tutorial shows you some stretches that may help you to achieve the splits:

Did you know?

In the US, to split your vote (or ballot or ticket) is to vote for candidates of more than one political party. Example: “I usually vote Democratic, but this year, I don’t like the party’s candidate for governor, so I might split my vote.”


Split, as a verb, dates back to the late 16th century. Its origin is Germanic, but since no examples have been found in Old or Middle English, linguists believe that it came into English from a Low Germanic language, such as the Dutch splitten. It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic spl(e)it- and the Proto-Indo-European root (s)plei– (to split or splice). It is related to the Danish and Frisian splitte, the Old Frisian splita and the German spleißen (all meaning ‘to split’), as well as the Greek plinthos (brick or tile), the Old Irish slind (brick), and the English noun flint. The colloquial sense ‘to separate’ (referring to couples), and the US slang sense ‘to leave’ both date back to the mid-20th century. The expression ‘to split hairs‘ is from the late 17th century, while ‘to split the difference’ dates back to the early 18th century. ‘To split the ticket or the vote’ has been used in the US since the mid-19th century. The noun, meaning ‘a narrow cleft or crack,’ dates back to the late 16th century, and comes from the verb. The sense ‘a piece of wood split off a larger piece’ dates back to the early 17th century, while ‘a separation’ was first used in the early 18th century. The gymnastic movement has been called a split (or the splits) since the mid-19th century. Finally, the adjective dates back to the mid-17th century, and comes from the verb.

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