breakdown

1 of 2

noun

break·​down ˈbrāk-ˌdau̇n How to pronounce breakdown (audio)
1
: the action or result of breaking down: such as
a
: a failure to function
preventing a breakdown of the health-care system
b
: failure to progress or have effect : disintegration
a breakdown of negotiations
c
: a complete loss of physical, mental, or emotional vitality : a physical, mental, or nervous collapse
d
: the process of decomposing
the breakdown of water into hydrogen and oxygen
cellular breakdown
e
: division into categories
a statistical breakdown of data
: classification
also : an account analyzed into categories
a budget breakdown
2
: a fast shuffling dance
also : music for such a dance

break down

2 of 2

verb

broke down; broken down; breaking down; breaks down

transitive verb

1
a
: to cause to fall or collapse by breaking or shattering
b
: to make ineffective
break down legal barriers
2
a
: to divide into parts or categories
b
: to separate (something, such as a chemical compound) into simpler substances : decompose
c
: to take apart especially for storage or shipment and for later reassembling

intransitive verb

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
2
of horses : to severely injure the supporting ligament or bones of the fetlock joint
3
a
: to be susceptible to or undergo analysis or subdivision
the statistics break down like this
b
: to undergo decomposition
Choose the Right Synonym for breakdown

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 (such 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

Examples of breakdown in a Sentence

Noun The factory has had frequent equipment breakdowns. Both sides are to blame for the breakdown in communication. The irretrievable breakdown of a marriage can be grounds for divorce. trying to prevent a breakdown of the health-care system trying to prevent breakdown of the health-care system He suffered a breakdown after his wife died. Verb 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 the enamel of a human tooth will begin to break down when exposed to sugar for too long
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
The breakdown of recent April 8 cloud-cover observations looks like this: Fair — 5 days Partly cloudy — 3 days Mostly cloudy — 6 days Cloudy — 10 days No solar eclipse glasses? John Tufts, The Indianapolis Star, 8 Apr. 2024 From an inside look at the Coachella Con Artist to a breakdown of Martha Stewart’s hustling ways, the show takes on scammy influencers across industries like social media, fashion, finance, health, and wellness. Eda Yu, The Hollywood Reporter, 5 Apr. 2024 Intentionally or not, keeping international attention fixed on southern Gaza draws attention away from the catastrophic situation unfolding in northern Gaza, where Palestinians face mass starvation, and where breakdowns in order display the failings (or features) of Israel’s war strategy. Mairav Zonszein, TIME, 4 Apr. 2024 Promotes thermogenesis and lipolysis (the breakdown of fats). Weight Loss Advisors, Discover Magazine, 3 Apr. 2024 Learn more about these rankings and their cost breakdowns here. Hallie Milstein, Southern Living, 3 Apr. 2024 The full pricing breakdown is available on the luggage page of JetBlue’s site. Jessica Puckett, Condé Nast Traveler, 3 Apr. 2024 The temperamental 18,000-pound Disneyland dragon – mockingly nicknamed Murphy by fans after Murphy’s Law – has a troubled history of malfunctions and breakdowns stretching back more than a decade. Brady MacDonald, Orange County Register, 30 Mar. 2024 The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday in Baltimore already ranks among the biggest bridge breakdowns the country has ever seen. Dylan Wickman, The Arizona Republic, 28 Mar. 2024
Verb
In landfills, where those same materials would be buried, they are broken down by anaerobic microorganisms, creating methane. Nicole Blanchard, Idaho Statesman, 9 Apr. 2024 The contestants were broken down into teams of two. Hannah Kirby, Journal Sentinel, 9 Apr. 2024 In this episode of World of Wine, Mack breaks down every kind of wine glass and discusses the details that lend to better-tasting Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and more. Tiffany Hopkins, Bon Appétit, 8 Apr. 2024 Enzymes that break down vitamin D need magnesium as a cofactor to carry out enzymatic reactions. Elizabeth Gamillo, Discover Magazine, 5 Apr. 2024 Atmospheric ozone was being broken down by the wide use of chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals known as CFCs, which were found in aerosol sprays, refrigeration and air-conditioning. Trip Gabriel, New York Times, 4 Apr. 2024 Apart from e-waste ending up in landfills, precious metals and other valuable materials are lost when servers are not broken down. Sviat Dulianinov, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024 Gender norms, associated with the use of wigs for men, began to be broken down. Stixx Matthews, Essence, 28 Mar. 2024 If things are breaking down within your family unit, will this be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and ultimately leads you to choose the wellbeing of its youngest members above all else? Steph Koyfman, Condé Nast Traveler, 27 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'breakdown.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

Noun

1827, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of breakdown was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near breakdown

Cite this Entry

“Breakdown.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/breakdown. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

breakdown

1 of 2 noun
break·​down ˈbrāk-ˌdau̇n How to pronounce breakdown (audio)
1
a
: a failure to function properly
b
: a physical, mental, or nervous collapse
2
3
: division into categories : classification

break down

2 of 2 verb
ˈbrāk-ˈdau̇n
1
: to stop working properly
the car broke down on the highway
2
a
: to separate (as a chemical compound) into simpler substances : decompose
b
: to go through decomposition
3
: to separate or become separated into parts or groups
this report breaks down into three sections
4
a
: to become overwhelmed by strong emotion
broke down and cried
b
: to lose the strength to resist or fight
broke down and confessed
5
: to use force to push (something) to the ground
break down a door

Medical Definition

breakdown

1 of 3 noun
break·​down ˈbrāk-ˌdau̇n How to pronounce breakdown (audio)
: the action or result of breaking down: as
a
: a failure to function
b
: a physical, mental, or nervous collapse
c
: the process of decomposing
breakdown of food during digestion

breakdown

2 of 3 adjective
: obtained or resulting from disintegration or decomposition of a substance
a breakdown product of purine

break down

3 of 3 transitive verb
: to separate (as a chemical compound) into simpler substances : decompose

intransitive verb

1
a
: to stop functioning because of breakage or wear
b
: to fail in strength or vitality
c
: to succumb to mental or emotional stress
2
of horses : to severely injure the supporting ligament or bones of the fetlock joint
3
: to undergo decomposition

More from Merriam-Webster on breakdown

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