melt·​down | \ ˈmelt-ˌdau̇n How to pronounce meltdown (audio) \

Definition of meltdown

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the accidental melting of the core of a nuclear reactor
2 : a rapid or disastrous decline or collapse
3 : a breakdown of self-control (as from fatigue or overstimulation)

melt down

melted down; melting down; melts down

Definition of melt down (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to suffer a meltdown : collapse

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for meltdown

Synonyms: Verb

break down, break up, crack, flip (out) [slang], freak (out), wig (out) [slang]

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of meltdown in a Sentence


fears that an accident could cause meltdown a company experiencing financial meltdown After a long day at the beach, our toddler had a major meltdown in the car on the way home.


apparently beset by personal problems, the actor proceeded to melt down before startled theatergoers
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The hue and cry for Baker to ride the T began early in his first term, after the epic MBTA meltdown in the winter of 2015., "Arriving by train would be a way to mark it as a special occasion. “It’s a big deal for the T and a big deal for the Red Line,” Baker explained.," 10 Sep. 2019 This time, the Seminoles were on the wrong end of a Choke At Doak and perpetrated one of the most monumental meltdowns in FSU history. Mike Bianchi,, "Ouch! Boise State quickly lights fire under FSU coach Willie Taggart’s hot seat | Commentary," 31 Aug. 2019 Addiction is a slippery condition, easy to overlook or deny unless a person is in full-blown meltdown. Claudia Rowe, The Seattle Times, "‘Those were the darkest days’: How key budget cuts fueled Washington’s opioid crisis," 18 Aug. 2019 Americans began to fly in huge numbers as the U.S. economy improved from the financial meltdown in 2008 and 2009, and lower fuel prices helped keep airfares relatively inexpensive. Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times, "More people are flying but TSA lines at LAX are shorter. How did this happen?," 17 Aug. 2019 The raw, concentrated intensity of the writing in these books, whether the landscape is a mind in meltdown or the havoc of the battlefield, has rarely been equalled in contemporary fiction. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: Inappropriate Attachments," 7 June 2019 Other accidents, such as the partial meltdown at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island in 1979, linger as terrifying examples of nuclear power's radioactive risks. National Geographic, "What is nuclear energy and is it a viable resource?," 26 Mar. 2019 As a Hollywood divorce looked imminent, Twitter had a meltdown imagining the fate of its beloved teenage superhero. Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY, "An Area 51 emergency?," 21 Aug. 2019 It gets hinted at, this allusion to Shiv having had a meltdown. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "In Season 2, Succession Is Sarah Snook's Show," 12 Aug. 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of meltdown


1956, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1956, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about meltdown

Dictionary Entries near meltdown





melt down



Statistics for meltdown

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for meltdown

The first known use of meltdown was in 1956

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for meltdown



English Language Learners Definition of meltdown

: an accident in which the core of a nuclear reactor melts and releases radiation
: a very fast collapse or failure
chiefly US, somewhat informal : a very fast loss of emotional self-control

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on meltdown

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with meltdown

Nglish: Translation of meltdown for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of meltdown for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about meltdown

Comments on meltdown

What made you want to look up meltdown? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make a temporary encampment

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!