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

Some of the breakdowns were not playing the down and distance properly, like defenders failing to take deep enough drops in third-and-long situations. San Diego Union-Tribune, "3 Thoughts after the Aztecs’ 31-10 win over New Mexico State," 15 Sep. 2019 Here's one idea: Get snowed in atop a mountain with no way to escape the four walls of your Airbnb rental, right in the middle of a breakdown. Fiza Pirani, Teen Vogue, "How Telling My Immigrant Parents I Contemplated Suicide May Have Saved My Life," 13 Sep. 2019 Our analysis of the gender breakdown of executives and directors focused on newly public companies with a pre-IPO valuation of at least $1 billion, based on valuation data provided by PitchBook. Michelle Cheng, Quartz at Work, "How WeWork stacks up with the big IPOs of 2019 on gender balance," 11 Sep. 2019 What went wrong with the landing module is anybody’s guess—such is the nature of a communications breakdown. The Economist, "Bangalore, we have a problem," 7 Sep. 2019 The answer all too often is that this is the inevitable result of the breakdown of the American family. Nr Interview, National Review, "Honoring Foster Parents," 6 Sep. 2019 In preliminary studies, alkaline water (with sodium bicarbonate or baking soda in it or added to it) has been shown to reduce the concentration of markers of bone breakdown. Christy Brissette,, "There’s no solid evidence alkaline water is better for you," 29 Aug. 2019 Change your air filter and clean air vents One of the most common causes of an HVAC breakdown is accumulated dirt and dust in the filtering system. Graham Hiemstra, Popular Mechanics, "How to Get Your HVAC System Ready for Winter," 29 Aug. 2019 Any sign of a breakdown in this arrangement — the threat that China will be impeded in selling its goods, or that the American appetite is waning — spreads worry far and wide. Peter S. Goodman, New York Times, "Trump Can Battle China or Expand the Economy. He Can’t Do Both.," 26 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Let’s break down where each of the four NL wild-card contenders stand entering play on Monday and look at what each team will have to do to make the postseason. Matt Martell,, "NL Wild-Card Reset: Can the Mets Pull Off a Minor Miracle?," 16 Sep. 2019 The United Auto Workers union says its contract negotiations with General Motors have broken down and its roughly 49,000 members will go on strike just before midnight on Sunday. London Gibson, Indianapolis Star, "Thousands of UAW Hoosiers to join nationwide strike against GM," 15 Sep. 2019 The chemicals in any kind of sunscreen break down over long periods of time, eventually becoming less potent, John G. Zampella, M.D., instructor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. Nina Bahadur, SELF, "How Bad Is It to Use Expired Sunscreen?," 12 Sep. 2019 Cows, for instance, which can build their bulky bodies on a diet of only grass and leaves, have four-part stomachs and a thriving collection of gut microbes that help them break down plant cells. Eva Frederick, Science | AAAS, "The world’s first animal was probably a carnivore," 30 Aug. 2019 The one-button toggle for accessing the on-screen display (OSD) is easy to use and reach, and that OSD is broken down in a way that’s not overwhelming. Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "Guidemaster: Finding the best gaming monitors you can buy in 2019," 23 Aug. 2019 Listen and subscribe, and hear The Reckon Interview conversation between John Hammontree and Corey Craft breaking down Sidewalk 2019 and their favorite Southern movies. Ben Flanagan |, al, "Sidewalk 2019: Look for these works from Alabama artists at the film festival," 22 Aug. 2019 That's not always a gift to creators, who often simply want to delight their audience, but the barriers between the two are breaking down. Laurie Penny, WIRED, "We Can Be Heroes: How the Nerds Are Reinventing Pop Culture," 19 Aug. 2019 Let’s break down the arguments people are likely to make against this tax. Sigal Samuel, Vox, "We put a “sin tax” on cigarettes and alcohol. Why not meat?," 11 Aug. 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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Statistics for breakdown

Last Updated

14 Oct 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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