break·down | \ ˈbrāk-ˌdau̇n \

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


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

According to MyFitnessPal’s database of the Costco food court’s nutritional breakdown, the Polish dog with a bun is 570 calories. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Costco's Food Court Is Getting Rid of the Polish Dog—It's Not Even the Most Unhealthy Thing on the Menu," 12 July 2018 Here’s a breakdown: 46 false or mostly false statements, 23 misleading statements and five unsupported claims. Salvador Rizzo, Washington Post, "Anatomy of a Trump rally: 76 percent of claims are false, misleading or lacking evidence," 10 July 2018 This presents are large lumps or bumps within the tattoo, skin breakdown, fevers, chills, and redness, among other symptoms. Emma Sarran Webster, Teen Vogue, "How To Take Care of A Tattoo: 9 Tattoo Care Tips You Should Know," 9 July 2018 One person looks at her and sees a dynamic and resilient radio-pop star, one who’s weathered high-profile peaks and valleys, emotional breakdowns, court cases and relentless tabloid scrutiny. John Adamian,, "Britney Spears, Tory Lanez, Kimya Dawson: Seven Concert Highlights," 7 July 2018 The law that governs federal education policy, the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, requires states to track and report the demographic breakdown of high-performing students, in order to help identify gaps. Dana Goldstein, New York Times, "Educators Turn to Programs for Top Students to Narrow the ‘Excellence Gap’," 25 June 2018 So the advisor may have been doing what needed to be done, but the fact that the investor didn’t understand what the advisor was doing or why indicates a breakdown in communication, at the very least. Liz Weston,, "High earners need to watch out for Medicare surcharge," 24 June 2018 The breakdowns of the three boats Senesco worked on, coupled with other mechanical problems that sidelined other ferries, have put the Steamship Authority in an unflattering spotlight. Matt Rocheleau,, "In latest mishap, seawater rains down inside a Martha’s Vineyard car ferry," 21 June 2018 The muscle of the fish also showed swelling and even breakdowns, and the hormones that regulate their physiology changed. National Geographic, "Some Rivers Are So Drug-Polluted, Their Eels Get High on Cocaine," 20 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Misty Copeland has broken down incredible barriers in ballet. Marci Robin, Allure, "Misty Copeland Helps Estée Lauder Announce the Shade Expansion of Double Wear Stay-In-Place Makeup," 14 July 2018 But shows like Younger and The Bold Type are breaking down stereotypes, featuring women who are so much more than just one thing. Emily Cassidy /, NBC News, "In the Know: Women in the news 7/9-7/13," 13 July 2018 The Fix’s Aaron Blake breaks down seven key moments from Strzok’s wild hearing. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: GOP candidates caught in a bind on Medicaid," 13 July 2018 Here, Bowe and other experts break down how to carefully incorporate the powerhouse ingredient into your regimen to achieve a supernaturally fresh-faced complexion, now and for decades to come. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "A Beginner's Guide to Retinol—Here's Everything You Need to Know," 12 July 2018 Of the eight million metric tons of plastic waste that gets lost at sea every year, most breaks down into tiny microplastics that eventually get ingested by humans via seafood. Emily Atkin, The New Republic, "Critics of Starbucks’ Straw Ban Are Missing the Point," 12 July 2018 Here, Variety breaks down the snubs and surprises of the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations. Danielle Turchiano,, "Emmy nominations: The biggest snubs and surprises," 12 July 2018 Most of those, though, ended up broken down in official garages because spare parts weren't available in Venezuela. Gustavo Ocando Alex, miamiherald, "With little public transportation, Venezuelans resort to dangerous, illegal ‘kennels’ to get around," 12 July 2018 Across Texas, Democratic primary results usually break down in predictable ways according to what can be inferred about a candidate’s ethnicity from their surname. The Economist, "Demography is not destinyBuilding a multiracial coalition is more difficult than it seems," 12 July 2018

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

Phrases Related to breakdown

breakdown lane

breakdown truck

Statistics for breakdown

Last Updated

16 Sep 2018

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 \

Kids Definition of breakdown

1 : a failure to function properly

2 : a sudden failure of mental or physical health


break·down | \ ˈbrāk-ˌdau̇n \

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 \

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).


occurring twice a year or every two years

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