Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

break down


Definition of break down

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to cause to fall or collapse by breaking or shattering b :  to make ineffective <break down legal barriers>

  3. 2 a :  to divide into parts or categories b :  to separate (as a chemical compound) into simpler substances :  decompose c :  to take apart especially for storage or shipment and for later reassembling

  4. intransitive verb
  5. 1 a :  to stop functioning because of breakage or wear b :  to become inoperative or ineffective :  fail <negotiations broke down> c :  to fail in strength or vitality <her health broke down> d :  to succumb to mental or emotional stress <broke down and cried> e :  to lose one's resolve :  give in <finally broke down and bought a computer>

  6. 2 of horses :  to severely injure the supporting ligament or bones of the fetlock joint

  7. 3 a :  to be susceptible to or undergo analysis or subdivision <the statistics break down like this> b :  to undergo decomposition

Examples of break down in a sentence

  1. <when presented with the pile of files, the first thing he did was to break them down by month, order within the month, and region>

  2. <the enamel of a human tooth will begin to break down when exposed to sugar for too long>

14th Century

First Known Use of break down

14th century

Synonym Discussion of break down

analyze, dissect, break down mean to divide a complex whole into its parts or elements. analyze suggests separating or distinguishing the component parts of something (as a substance, a process, a situation) so as to discover its true nature or inner relationships <analyzed the collected data>. dissect suggests a searching analysis by laying bare parts or pieces for individual scrutiny <commentators dissected every word of the speech>. break down implies a reducing to simpler parts or divisions <break down the budget>.

Rhymes with break down

back down, Baytown, bear down, blowdown, boil down, boomtown, breakdown, Bridgetown, bringdown, bring down, call down, Cape Town, cast down, Charlestown, clampdown, clamp down, climb down, closedown, comedown, come down, cooldown, countdown, count down, count noun, cow town, crackdown, crack down, crosstown, cry down, cut down, downtown, drawdown, draw down, dress down, drop-down, dumb down, embrown, facedown, fall down, first down, Freetown, Georgetown, George Town, get down, ghost town, godown, go down, half crown, hand down, hands-down, hoedown, hold down, hometown, hull down, Jamestown, keep down, knockdown, knock down, lay down, letdown, let down, lie down, live down, lockdown, look down, lowdown, markdown, mark down, mass noun, meltdown, melt down, midtown, new town, nightgown, North Down, nut-brown, pastedown, pat down, pay down, phase down, pipe down, play down, plunk down, pronoun, pull-down, pull down, pushdown, put-down, renown, rubdown, rundown, scale-down, set down, shakedown, shake down, shire town, shoot down, showdown, shutdown, shut down, sit-down, slap down, slowdown, Southdown, splashdown, splash down, stand-down, stare down, step-down, stop down, strike down, stripped-down, sundown, swansdown, take down, talk down, tank town, tea gown, tear down, throw down, thumbs-down, tie-down, top-down, touchdown, touch down, trade down, turndown, turn down, uncrown, uptown, Von Braun, wash down, wear down, weigh down, wet down, wind down, write-down, write down, Youngstown

Medical Dictionary

break down

verb \(ˈ)brāk-ˈdau̇n\

Medical Definition of break down

  1. :  to separate (as a chemical compound) into simpler substances :  decompose

  2. 1

  3. intransitive verb

  4. a:  to stop functioning because of breakage or wearb:  to fail in strength or vitalityc:  to succumb to mental or emotional stress

  5. 2of horses :  to severely injure the supporting ligament or bones of the fetlock joint

  6. 3:  to undergo decomposition

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up break down? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take off or remove

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which is a synonym of indolent?

philistine lazy melancholy frenetic
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.