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

Watch the new RuPaul preview above, and read on for a full breakdown of the first week’s episodes, per a studio press release. Joey Nolfi,, "RuPaul's new talk show announces Paula Abdul, James Corden, more guests," 5 June 2019 For a step-by-step breakdown of how to get the neon ombré French tip on your own, click ahead. Megan Decker,, "The Minimalist French-Manicure Trend You'll Want To Wear All Summer," 5 June 2019 Keep on reading for a full breakdown of every boyfriend Kylie Jenner has ever had. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Everything You Need to Know About All of Kylie Jenner's Ex-Boyfriends," 20 Mar. 2019 The letter, which was sent last month, asks for the breakdown of a company’s workforce by job function or business unit, geographic location of employees, the number of full-time or part-time workers, and whether the company uses subcontractors. Heather Gillers, WSJ, "U.S. Companies Asked to Disclose More About Their Workers," 13 Dec. 2018 Come for the radiation side effects, stay for the breakdown of US-North Korea relations. Byrd Pinkerton, Vox, "13 of Vox’s best podcast episodes of 2018," 6 Dec. 2018 Join us next week for more breakdown of all things tech and business. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Why Snap will get acquired before 2020, probably by Amazon," 28 Sep. 2018 Remember when Kevin abandoned his play on opening night to run across town and comfort Randall during his breakdown? Emma Dibdin, Country Living, "'This Is Us' Recap: Jack and an Adult Kate Appeared Together for the First Time and It Was Emotional," 10 Oct. 2018 More than 100 House Democrats signed onto a letter demanding the administration provide a detailed breakdown of expenses incurred in separating immigrant children from their parents. Lisa Mascaro, The Seattle Times, "GOP set for showdown immigration vote," 26 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Thankfully, Preston is ready to break down all the deliciously Floridian chaos ahead, just in time for National Best Friends Day on June 8. Ariana Romero,, "Carrie Preston Previews TV’s Best Ride Or Die Summer Show, Claws Season 3," 8 June 2019 Van Houtan said researchers are still studying how long the plastic pieces take to break down and what their impacts are on wildlife. Paul Rogers, The Mercury News, "Levels of plastic pollution in Monterey Bay rival those in Great Pacific Garbage Patch," 6 June 2019 Cross is hoping to break down the taboo surrounding anal cancer. CBS News, "Why "Desperate Housewives" star Marcia Cross is so eager to talk about anal cancer," 5 June 2019 Ellis wants to deploy dual playmakers in Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan to break down lesser opponents that are likely to bunker. Jonathan Tannenwald,, "Meet the 23 players on the U.S. national women’s soccer team for the 2019 World Cup," 4 June 2019 Neither Pike nor SeaWorld offered an estimate of when the new ride might reopen and what specifically caused the ride to break down. San Diego Union-Tribune, "SeaWorld’s Tidal Twister coaster just opened — and now it’s closed," 4 June 2019 Bile, along with bile salts, is used to break down fats during the digestive process. Kate Wehr, Good Housekeeping, "Gallstones Are the Pregnancy Complication No One Warned Me About," 18 Apr. 2019 TODAY Sports will be breaking down the key questions facing each NFL team. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "Patriots training camp questions: Will rocky offseason carry over for AFC champions?," 13 July 2018 Let’s break down some of the most notable findings from the 2017 STI report (which is the most recent data available): 1,708,569 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2017. SELF, "Here's Why Sexually Transmitted Infection Rates Are So High, According to STI Experts," 8 Jan. 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

10 Jun 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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