Where Did the Expression “Breaking the Ice” When Relaxing Tension Originate and What Does it Mean?

Overcoming an awkward moment in either business or social circles sometimes requires a little levity to “break the ice” in order to make progress.

The expression originally meant to smash the melting ice that hindered commerce during the long winter freeze.

It was first used literally in its figurative modem way in 1823 when, in Don Juan, Lord Byron (1788-1824) wrote in reference to the stiff British upper class:

“And your cold people are beyond all price, when once you’ve broken their confounded ice.”