Breakbeat is a broad style of electronic or dance-oriented music which utilizes breaks, often sampled from earlier recordings in funk, jazz, and R&B, for the main rhythm. Breakbeats have been used in styles such as hip hop, jungle, drum and bass, hardcore, UK garage (including 2-step, breakstep and dubstep), and even pop and rock.
The most likely origin of the word “breakbeat” is the fact that the drum loops that were sampled occurred during a “break” in the music, as in the Amen break, which is a drum solo from “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons. However, it is a common thought that the name derives from the beat being “broken” and unpredictable compared to other percussive styles, something which is also reflected in the name of the related genre broken beat. Whether this was part of the original meaning of the word or is purely a folksonomy remains unclear, but it is safe to say that the term has evolved to encompass both sentiments.