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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Here is a breakdown of how jobs in various categories of the labor market cumulatively changed from February, just before the pandemic hit the U.S., to November. Eric Morath, WSJ, "Pandemic Reshapes U.S. Employment, Speeding Changes Across Industries," 29 Dec. 2020 The breakdown for revenue to operating costs was $157 million to $31 million. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, "Despite being awful, Detroit Red Wings still one of NHL's most valuable teams," 11 Dec. 2020 The airline did not yet have a breakdown of layoffs by airport. Melissa Yeager, The Arizona Republic, "Southwest Airlines is planning its first layoffs. Here's what that might mean in Phoenix," 4 Dec. 2020 The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has a great breakdown of why this is so. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Letter: Week of November 16," 21 Nov. 2020 State officials didn’t have a breakdown of absentee ballots from out-of-state voters. Briana Bierschbach, Star Tribune, "Minnesota voters scramble to return early absentee ballots," 1 Nov. 2020 GamesRadar has a solid breakdown of all the challenges players can complete and where to find them, including Become a Shadow and Eat Candy. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, "'Fortnitemares': What you need to know about 'Fortnite' Halloween event," 24 Oct. 2020 The agency does not have a breakdown of how many problem hand sanitizers are still for sale in the U.S. compared to how many have been voluntarily recalled. Amy Martyn, oregonlive, "17 deaths related to methanol-spiked hand sanitizer but FDA limited in actions," 6 Oct. 2020 Laura Hancock has the breakdown of the percent of abortions performed by surgery and various kinds of medication. cleveland, "Frank LaRose can decide on ballot drop boxes, Ohio appeals court says: Capitol Letter," 5 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb By processing together, parents can help kids break down the tough stuff, feel some control, and come out stronger and better. Jamie Kiffel-alcheh, Family, "Talking to kids about 2020," 29 Dec. 2020 But break down the vote behind those apparent landslides into the smallest electoral pieces — precincts — and a more nuanced picture emerges. Jonathon Berlin,, "How did your neighbors vote for president, Senate and the graduated-rate income tax amendment? Search our city and suburban map to find out.," 2 Dec. 2020 Actor Luke Perry was famously buried in one of the suits, a cotton garment embedded with mushrooms that emit enzymes to break down the body into nutrients. Jennifer Bjorhus, Star Tribune, "At a memorial forest in Scandia, a final resting place beneath the trees instead of in a plot," 23 Sep. 2020 Wallpe recommends enlisting a teacher’s help to break down the information into two separate messages. Angela Hatem, National Geographic, "Talking to kids about natural disasters," 22 Sep. 2020 The chemicals break down the oil into smaller molecules, which disperse in the ocean and are eventually degraded by natural bacteria and microorganisms into carbon dioxide and water. Erica Yokoyama,, "Why We Still Can’t Stop Oil Spills From Damaging the Environment," 10 Sep. 2020 Posts claiming more than 2,000 children go missing each day seem to break down that number into a daily count. Matthew Brown, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Mask-wearing not connected to child trafficking," 11 Aug. 2020 One example cited is called gas phase chemical reduction, which uses hydrogen and heat to break down toxic chemicals into their basic components. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, "It’s time to stop burning volatile propellants at Salt Lake Valley rocket facility, groups say," 8 Aug. 2020 That makes the Philippines’ approval of the crop a huge milestone, especially amidst false rumors that its beta-carotene would break down into cancer-causing chemicals, Le Page reports. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Golden Rice Approved as Safe for Consumption in the Philippines," 3 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for breakdown

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for breakdown

Last Updated

7 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Breakdown.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for breakdown


How to pronounce break down (audio)

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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