Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bust up v.

[SE bust, to break up]

1. (also bust) to have a major quarrel, to end a love-affair, to divorce.

[US]Mencken letter 12 Nov. in Riggio Dreiser-Mencken Letters I (1986) 107: I am glad you are considering a good offer but please be sure it won’t ‘bust-up’ after you have severed important connections elsewhere.
[US]E. Hemingway letter 14 Sept. in Baker Sel. Letters (1981) 257: I have nothing but love admiration and respect for Hadley and while we are busted up I have not in any way lost Bumby. He lived with me in Switzerland after the divorce.
[US]J. Tully Bruiser 55: I think we’d better bust up.
[US]J.M. Cain Mildred Pierce (1985) 342: You mean you’ve busted up?
[US]L. Hughes Simply Heavenly I iii: I told Isabel when we busted up that she had shared my bed, my board [...] but I did not want to share another thing with her from that day to this, not even a divorce.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) H. Huncke ‘Detrot Redhead’ in Eve. Sun Turned Crimson (1998) 105: She had just busted with Knuckles [...] one of the local pimps.
[US]R. Campbell In La-La Land We Trust (1999) 173: They stared at each other, old friends almost about to get busted up because of a woman.
[US]B. Gifford Night People 131: They had busted up right after her recent abortion.

2. to stop something, e.g. a fight, happening.

Cook Co. Herald (MN) 23 Mar. 4/4: That confounded editor is roasting me again. Tell me how I can bust up his infernal paper.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 7 Nov. 1/3: Hearing of his success in Australia the poor law guardians sent the son out, and so ‘bust up’ the show.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 42: Seems tough for me to bust up now.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Low Brow’ in Big League (2004) 23: We’ve got to bust this thing up somehow.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 119: Well, sir, it’s been a great session. Sorry to bust it up.
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 168: Even getting a cigarette off them bust things up momentarily.
[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 44: You shoulda seen him when the coppers bust it [i.e. a fight] up.
[US]H.S. Thompson Hell’s Angels (1967) 111: The Chronicle uncovered a heart-wrenching Hell’s Angels plan to ‘bust up’ a charity benefit for The Guide Dogs for the Blind.

3. to conclude, e.g. an evening out or a party.

[US]H.C. Witwer Classics in Sl. 58: This busted up the party and the shriekin’ Mac is carried away, one of the first and most famous victims of the D.T.’s.
[US]W.R. Burnett Iron Man 221: Coke took out a cigar and gave it to the waiter. ‘I’ll see you when we bust up.’.
[US]A. Kober Parm Me 144: Before we bust up [...] I just wanna express the thanks I know Kitty Shapiro is gonna feel towards you members.
[US]R. Prather Scrambled Yeggs 75: He was in every hand all night. Right up to about one, Thursday a.m. That’s when the game finally busted up.

4. (US) to make someone else laugh.

[US]P. Munro Sl. U. 51: bust up [...] to make (someone) laugh.
[US]J. Ridley Conversation with the Mann 59: I could tell jokes, though. That I could do. I would bust up the boys with some bits I heard from comics on Toast of the Town.

5. see bust v.1