break·​down | \ ˈbrāk-ˌdau̇n How to pronounce breakdown (audio) \

Definition of breakdown

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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 medicine : 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

broke down; broken down; breaking down; breaks down

Definition of break down (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to cause to fall or collapse by breaking or shattering
b : to make ineffective break down legal barriers
2a : 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

1a : 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
3a : to be susceptible to or undergo analysis or subdivision the statistics break down like this
b : to undergo decomposition

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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


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.


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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In the next episode, the moment when Billy smashes through the glass window of the sauna door and tries to attack Max with a shard of tile is reminiscent of Jack’s (Jack Nicholson) infamous door breakdown in The Shining. Time, "Breaking Down the Many Stranger Things Season 3 References You Might Have Missed," 4 July 2019 One tractor-trailer was stopped in the right breakdown lane when Andre Cassidy of Windsor, Quebec, who was driving past in another tractor-trailer, sneezed and swerved, police said. Sophia Eppolito,, "Truck crash starts fire on I-93 north in New Hampshire," 3 July 2019 So the incidence of large- or even small-scale breakdowns is unknown. Dov Fox, Vox, "The legal limbo of lost embryos," 3 July 2019 The remaining 16 percent of domestic visitors were here on business — roughly the same breakdown as in 2017. Lori Rackl,, "Illinois sets new tourism record with more than 117 million visitors last year," 2 July 2019 Investors and traders moved quickly Monday to shift trading of Europe’s largest stocks from London to Switzerland after a major diplomatic breakdown threatened to reverse decades of financial market integration. Avantika Chilkoti, WSJ, "Ban Forces Trading Shift for Europe’s Biggest Stocks," 1 July 2019 Problems with child welfare services have plagued the county for years, but last year the county set up a working group to study the issues after several news stories highlighted breakdowns and problems in the child welfare system and foster care. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Local civil rights group calls for changes to newly-formed child welfare advisory board," 1 July 2019 McConnell production breakdown The 6-2 point guard owns a 6.4-point scoring average over his four seasons, and his average in each season is in the 6-point range. Scott Horner, Indianapolis Star, "What you should know about new Pacers guard T.J. McConnell," 1 July 2019 Because pre-existing conditions so frequently lead to a breakdown, experts often blame the use of painkillers for catastrophic injuries, because the drugs can mask defects like fractures and keep a horse running, experts said. Elliott Almond, The Mercury News, "Racing in crisis: It’s not just Santa Anita. Horse deaths plague East Bay track and others around country," 29 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Last year, soon after the overhaul was completed, the plant broke down, leaving much of Bishkek without heat or electricity in freezing weather. Andrew Higgins, New York Times, "A Power Plant Fiasco Highlights China’s Growing Clout in Central Asia," 6 July 2019 Express-News sports writers Jeff McDonald, Nick Talbot and Mike Finger break down their thoughts on this week’s NBA free-agent market, including the Spurs’ moves of signing Rudy Gay and DeMarre Carroll., "Podcast: Why the Spurs signed Rudy Gay and DeMarre Carroll," 5 July 2019 Negotiations around Europe’s data-protection rules, content restrictions and competition concerns had broken down. The Economist, "Network effects: July 2020," 4 July 2019 These organisms break down hay, grass, and other hard-to-digest plant material into usable nutrients and calories. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "Gut bacteria could be key to producing tastier cow’s milk," 3 July 2019 The glycemic index is a reference to how quickly a food is broken down and absorbed. Jamie Pitlick, Quartzy, "The best and worst sugar substitutes for your health," 3 July 2019 In the book, LaPorte broke down life planning into five categories: livelihood and lifestyle; body and wellness; creativity and learning; relationships and society; essence and spirituality. Laura M. Holson, Town & Country, "Marianne Williamson's Disciples Are Everywhere," 2 July 2019 Alessandra Wood, Vice President of Style at Modsy, broke down the choices her team made and how their design changed our space so drastically. Alyssa Fiorentino, House Beautiful, "6 Tricks to Make a Windowless Room Feel Bright," 1 July 2019 Honest, vulnerable storytelling has the power to break down stigmas around some of these harder issues. Clarissa Cruz,, "Former Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth on inspiring a new generation of women," 22 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'breakdown.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of breakdown


1827, in the meaning defined at sense 1


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

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Learn More about breakdown

Statistics for breakdown

Last Updated

8 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for breakdown

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

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More Definitions for breakdown



English Language Learners Definition of breakdown

: a failure of a machine to function : an occurrence in which a machine (such as a car) stops working
: the failure of a relationship or of an effort to discuss something
: a failure that prevents a system from working properly


break·​down | \ ˈbrāk-ˌdau̇n How to pronounce breakdown (audio) \

Kids Definition of breakdown

1 : a failure to function properly
2 : a sudden failure of mental or physical health


break·​down | \ ˈbrāk-ˌdau̇n How to pronounce breakdown (audio) \

Medical Definition of breakdown

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: 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



Medical Definition of breakdown (Entry 2 of 3)

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

break down

transitive verb
\ (ˈ)brāk-ˈdau̇n How to pronounce break down (audio) \

Medical Definition of break down (Entry 3 of 3)

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

intransitive verb

1a : 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

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Comments on breakdown

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


an act or instance of editing or removing

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