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 But the really interesting breakdown is along economic lines. Adam Rogers, Wired, "The Preexisting Conditions of the Coronavirus Pandemic," 16 Oct. 2020 The strike comes amid a breakdown in contract talks between the nurses’ union and hospital management, as well as rising coronavirus cases in Norwich and other eastern Connecticut communities. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Philharmonic pop-up, college cheaters, debating the response: News from around our 50 states," 14 Oct. 2020 Those questions have intensified following a recent breakdown in talks on Capitol Hill over a second round of stimulus. Clare Duffy, CNN, "What small business owners really need from the next president," 13 Oct. 2020 Some kind of natural breakdown or foreign intrusion. Dwight Garner, New York Times, "Don DeLillo, an Old Hand at Paranoia and Dread, Meets Us Where We Are," 12 Oct. 2020 According to the state's latest county-by-county breakdown, Jefferson County had the most absentee ballot requests by Thursday with more than 164,000. Ben Tobin, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky sees less absentee ballot requests for general election than in the primary," 10 Oct. 2020 His estimates are based on a product breakdown covering medical equipment, electronic devices and a subcategory of textiles that includes cloth masks. Liyan Qi, WSJ, "Chinese Exports to the U.S. Get a Lifeline From Coronavirus-Related Demand," 9 Oct. 2020 Click here to see the county-by-county breakdown, and click here for information about becoming a poll worker. Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland, "Larry Householder, FirstEnergy face $1 million defamation lawsuit from ex-candidate: Capitol Letter," 8 Oct. 2020 The following is an excerpt from Stars insider Matthew DeFranks' offseason roster breakdown of the Dallas Stars. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, "Stars free agency targets: 15 players Dallas could try to sign this offseason," 7 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Broad-spectrum means the sunscreen offers protection from both UVB rays, which burn skin, and UVA rays, which travel deeper and cause collagen to break down. Julie Ricevuto, Allure, "The Science of Beauty: The Complete Guide to Sunscreen," 15 Oct. 2020 Plants were selected for their ability to bioaccumulate and break down toxins, as well as for their resilience to periodic salt-water inundation. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, "The Most Important Global Forecast That You’ve Never Heard Of," 14 Oct. 2020 Tannins are revealed when both chlorophyll and carotenoids break down in the leaves. Paul Douglas, Star Tribune, "Sunday Night Storms. Tumbling Temps Next Week," 10 Oct. 2020 Adding a field goal before half, the Pirates and head coach Josh Wells headed into the break down 7-5. cleveland, "Rocky River grinds out 29-7 victory over Lexington in Div. III, Region 10 first-round playoff game," 10 Oct. 2020 High school sports Insider Kyle Neddenriep is joined this week by Matt Glenesk to break down the sectional football draw. Matthew Glenesk, The Indianapolis Star, "Indiana high school football: Sectional draw review podcast," 9 Oct. 2020 To mitigate that, NASA will employ a highly-acidic solution to break down any deposits that might be in the urine. Amy Thompson, Smithsonian Magazine, "NASA Just Sent a New $23 Million Space Toilet to the International Space Station," 9 Oct. 2020 These devices protect your food by removing and blocking all oxygen from the bag or container—crucial, because oxygen is what causes food to break down and rot. Gabrielle Hondorp, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Food Vacuum Sealers To Keep Your Meals Fresh," 8 Oct. 2020 According to Yankee, this traps in heat to help the gel break down faster. Alexis Bennett, SELF, "How to Remove Gel Nail Polish Without Destroying Your Nails," 7 Oct. 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

21 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Breakdown.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Oct. 2020.

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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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