Breakbeat as a term can be traced back to the 1970s with the origin of hiphop in the USA, and the early rave scene in the 1980s in the UK. There is a lot of argument about which was more prominent, but its safe to say that they developed their own styles in parallel
Breakbeat is the cornerstone of hundreds of genres of EDM giving the suffix “-step” to many of them to describe the syncopated or polyrhythmic beat structures.
Breakbeat usually takes the form of a non-standard 4/4 drum pattern to add creativity to what can be seen as a very monotonous 4 on the floor beat patterns of house or techno for example.
In the 1960s and 1970s during the rise of funk and soul music, bands would have “breaks” in the song where the drumer has a short 4 or 8 bar solo. With the invention of synthesizers in the 1980s people would sample these breaks, and “chop” them into their individual components. This allowed the DJ to create their own drum patters, miles away from the synthesized drum hits that the machinery could manage. The most famous of this is from the song “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons, becoming known as the Amen Break.
Without this particular breakbeat, its widely accepted that hiphop, jungle and subsequently drum and bass would not be the powerhouses they are today.