decompose

verb

de·​com·​pose ˌdē-kəm-ˈpōz How to pronounce decompose (audio)
decomposed; decomposing; decomposes

transitive verb

1
: to separate into constituent parts or elements or into simpler compounds
decompose water by electrolysis
decompose a word into its base and affixes
2
: rot

intransitive verb

: to break up into constituent parts by or as if by a chemical process : decay, rot
fruit decomposes
decomposable adjective
decomposition noun
Choose the Right Synonym for decompose

decay, decompose, rot, putrefy, spoil mean to undergo destructive dissolution.

decay implies a slow change from a state of soundness or perfection.

a decaying mansion

decompose stresses a breaking down by chemical change and when applied to organic matter a corruption.

the strong odor of decomposing vegetation

rot is a close synonym of decompose and often connotes foulness.

fruit was left to rot in warehouses

putrefy implies the rotting of animal matter and offensiveness to sight and smell.

corpses putrefying on the battlefield

spoil applies chiefly to the decomposition of foods.

keep the ham from spoiling

Example Sentences

Bacteria and fungi help decompose organic matter. the smell of decomposing leaves The compound will decompose in the presence of light.
Recent Examples on the Web In Moab’s arid climate, trash takes decades to decompose—so pack it out. Kelly Bastone, Outside Online, 25 Oct. 2022 The shredded leaves decompose very quickly and by the spring are no longer visible. Susan Brownstein, cleveland, 27 Sep. 2022 Because of the remote location of the beaches, the whale carcasses won’t be buried or towed out to sea, as is often the case, but instead will be left to decompose, Grover said. Nick Perry, BostonGlobe.com, 12 Oct. 2022 Because of the remote location of the beaches, the whale carcasses won’t be buried or towed out to sea, as is often the case, but instead will be left to decompose, Grover said. Nick Perry, Anchorage Daily News, 12 Oct. 2022 Because of the remote location of the beaches, the whale carcasses won’t be buried or towed out to sea, as is often the case, but instead will be left to decompose, Grover said. Nick Perry, Chicago Tribune, 12 Oct. 2022 Something like a single-use water bottle will break down into smaller and smaller fragments—what are known as microplastics—but likely won’t fully decompose for around 450 years, if ever. Ali Francis, Bon Appétit, 5 Oct. 2022 Amid vendors offering caskets, urns and other tools of the trade at the Baltimore Convention Center, Sam Sieber enthusiastically described how, through a scientific process, heated water can rapidly decompose a human body. Hayes Gardner, Baltimore Sun, 13 Oct. 2022 The electrolyte in the battery might decompose and release gas. Chris Smith, BGR, 28 Sep. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decompose.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

French décomposer, from dé- de + composer to compose

First Known Use

1718, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of decompose was in 1718

Dictionary Entries Near decompose

Cite this Entry

“Decompose.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/decompose. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

decompose

verb

de·​com·​pose ˌdē-kəm-ˈpōz How to pronounce decompose (audio)
1
: to separate a thing into its parts or into simpler compounds
decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen
2
: to break down through chemical change : rot
decomposable adjective

Medical Definition

decompose

verb

de·​com·​pose ˌdē-kəm-ˈpōz How to pronounce decompose (audio)
decomposed; decomposing

transitive verb

: to separate into constituent parts or elements or into simpler compounds
decompose water by electrolysis

intransitive verb

: to undergo chemical breakdown : decay, rot
fruit decomposes
decomposability noun
plural decomposabilities
decomposable adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on decompose

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