Cri6 doing flares at the Red Bull BC One World Final 2018
© Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool
Breaking

These are 14 common breaking terms you need to know

What do some of the most common words and phrases used in breaking mean? Find out here.
By Emmanuel Adelekun
5 min readUpdated on
Breaking, like all street-born art forms, has a unique vocabulary used by the people on the scene; b-boys, b-girls, DJs, hosts and everyone else. However, the meaning of a lot of these commonplace terms can be less than obvious to those new to breaking.
We've put together a glossary of 14 common terms used in the breaking scene and what they mean:
01

b-boys / b-girls

Even though there are different historical definitions of the terms 'b-boy' and 'b-girl,' in general, a b-boy or b-girl is someone who practices the dance of breaking, and also follows and lives the hip-hop culture and lifestyle.
Check out how breaking looks like in the replay of the Red Bull BC One World Final 2022.

Red Bull BC One World Final 2022

Breakers from across the globe will do battle to be crowned World Champion in NYC, the birthplace of hip-hop.

02

Throw down

When a b-boy or b-girl hits the floor and starts breaking, they are doing a throw down.
03

Cypher

A cypher is a circle that breakers form and dance in. If you're at a breaking event, you'll usually see multiple cyphers around the room happening while the DJ spins music in between breaks in the competition. Breakers go in a cypher one at a time to dance to the music and can also battle each other.
Luka of Brazil poses for a portrrait prior to the Red Bull Bc One World Final in Zurich, Switwerland on September 27th, 2018.

Luka performs a Layout Backflip

© Little Shao/Red Bull Content Pool

04

A cypher cat / Cypher b-boy or b-girl

If a breaker is specifically referred to as a 'cypher cat,' or a cypher b-boy or b-girl it means that they're a breaker with a reputation for having a high level of breaking talent inside the cypher. This means they're able to go in the cypher for multiple rounds without repeating moves or getting tired, and they have a style that really fits the small, more confined space of a cypher. This usually equates to shorter, more to-the-point throw downs than breakers would usually do in a competition.
05

A power head

A power head is someone who loves to mostly practice and perform power moves in their breaking.
06

Footwork cat

A footwork cat is someone who loves to mostly practice and perform footwork in their breaking.
07

Repeating

If a breaker is accused of 'repeating' in a battle it means that their opponent is saying that they're doing a move they've already done during that competition. For example, if you see a breaker do head spins multiple times in one competition. In breaking, it's an unwritten rule that you shouldn't repeat moves, and this can cause a breaker to lose a battle.
Luka performs a Layout Backflip

Luka performs a Layout Backflip

© Little Shao/Red Bull Content Pool

08

Bite, biter or biting

If a b-boy or b-girl is accused of 'biting' or 'being a biter' it means someone's saying that they have stolen or copied their moves or style from another breaker. 'Don't bite' is another unwritten rule of breaking, and although it might not lose a breaker a battle, it'll cause other breakers to look down on the reputation of that b-boy or b-girl.
09

Crashing

If a b-boy or b-girl 'crashes' while dancing, it means that they failed an attempted move and fell quite badly out of it, or during the attempt at doing it. This is probably the number one thing that can cause a breaker to lose a battle. But, breaking is a hard, dynamic, acrobatic art form and every b-boy or b-girl, no matter how high level, will crash moves at some point. No one's perfect and never crashes, especially when attempting new moves. The best breakers know how to turn a crash into a move, controlling the crash enough to continue their flow into something else.
10

Off beat or on beat

If a breaker is said to be 'off beat' it means that they're not dancing to the basic rhythm of the music, and not keeping in time with the basic snare (drum) of the track, which is the part of the music breakers learn to keep rhythm to. But if a breaker is always deeply in tune with all the layers of the music, they are said to always be 'on beat.'
11

A call out

A call out is when one breaker spontaneously challenges another breaker to a battle. This usually happens in a cypher, but it can also happen during a crew battle if one breaker calls out someone from the opposite crew, showing that they want to battle them for that particular round. If it happens in a cypher, a call out can go any number of rounds. If it happens in a crew battle, the breaker being called out might accept or might not, depending on if their crew has already chosen who'll go out next or not.
Luigi jumps and poses with one hand in front of his face.

Luigi in Zurich for Red Bull BC One 2018

© Little Shao/Red Bull Content Pool

12

Set

A set is a breaker's prepared round or combination of moves. If a breaker is doing a set, it means they've already practiced that sequence and are now performing it the same way they practiced it. A set can be a whole round or a combination of moves, but most breakers do some form of set, long or short, especially when it comes to doing big competitions in which they might need anything from 10 to 15 prepared rounds to win.
13

A crew

A crew is a collective of b-boys and b-girls who come together as a team, under one crew name. Usually the breakers in a crew are from the same area or country, but crews can have members all over the world. Being in a crew is an official, important commitment as a crew is a family who train together, battle together, support each other and share the same mindset towards breaking as a dance and culture. There's no set number of breakers that make up a crew, it can be anything from two to 30 breakers, or more. Crews are also not just limited to b-boys and b-girls, with DJs, graffiti writers and MCs also being part of crews. People can also be in more than one crew.
14

A super crew

When high-level b-boys and b-girls from different crews team up, or two high-level crews join forces to compete in a crew competition, people call this a 'super crew.'
Those are just a few common terms that are useful to know when watching, going to, or taking part in a breaking event. The best way to learn more of them is to immerse yourself in the scene.