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

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 Moss may eventually cover the bark, which can also help accelerate breakdown of the wood fiber. oregonlive, 16 Jan. 2022 Dan is a nervous recluse with depressive tendencies and one mental breakdown already under his belt. Los Angeles Times, 14 Jan. 2022 In 2008, the same year Jamie Lynn gave birth as a teen, Britney was placed under the conservatorship following a public breakdown, and their dad Jamie and others made all of her personal and financial decisions until its termination in November. Jeff Nelson,, 12 Jan. 2022 North Korea has conducted more than two dozen weapons or engine tests since the abrupt breakdown in talks at a 2019 nuclear summit in Vietnam. Timothy W. Martin, WSJ, 12 Jan. 2022 But dirt is going to be an issue well before chemical breakdown is. Ray Magliozzi, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 Jan. 2022 The spike in coronavirus infections fueled by the omicron variant is causing a breakdown in basic functions and services in the U.S., in the latest illustration of how covid-19 keeps upending life almost two years into the pandemic. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 9 Jan. 2022 Its main function is to cleanse your blood, convert potential toxins into waste, metabolize medication and breakdown food into necessary proteins. Dr. Michael Daignault, USA TODAY, 7 Jan. 2022 To prevent breakdown, seal a wood deck as soon as it's built. Susannah Felts, Better Homes & Gardens, 6 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Now, watch Camila Cabello's makeup artist break down her best looks: Our bad! Talia Gutierrez, Allure, 14 Jan. 2022 The parties were such tangles, though, that these battles didn’t break down along partisan lines. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 27 Dec. 2021 An announcement could come as soon as Wednesday, assuming the talks don’t break down, the people said. Ben Dummett, WSJ, 22 Dec. 2021 Gryka took to social media to explain exactly how prices break down to make numbers more transparent. Noah Sheidlower And Radhika Marya, CNN, 12 Dec. 2021 Breakthrough break down: While people can get the number of coronavirus breakthrough cases in neighboring Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana, the Ohio Department of Health doesn’t make that information public. Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland, 7 Dec. 2021 The company knew PCBs don’t naturally break down and touted their longevity, the suit alleges. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 25 Nov. 2021 Patel knows of two cases in which COVID-patients have lost sensation in their corneas, which can cause those corneas to break down, even with minor trauma. Emily Sohn, Scientific American, 17 Nov. 2021 If government did what these experts want, society and the economy would break down. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 29 Dec. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near breakdown

break dancing


break down

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Statistics for breakdown

Last Updated

19 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Breakdown.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jan. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on breakdown

Nglish: Translation of breakdown for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of breakdown for Arabic Speakers


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