break down

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See also: breakdown



break down (third-person singular simple present breaks down, present participle breaking down, simple past broke down, past participle broken down or (informal) broke down)

  1. (intransitive) To fail, to cease to function.
    I am afraid my computer will break down if I try to run it at too high a speed.
    Talks broke down between Prime Minister John Doe and the opposition party.
    Relations broke down between Greece and Turkey.
  2. (ergative, figuratively) To render or to become unstable due to stress, to collapse physically or mentally.
    She is back to work now, after she broke down the other day.
    • 1922, Ben Travers, A Cuckoo in the Nest, chapter 6:
      Sophia broke down here. Even at this moment she was subconsciously comparing her rendering of the part of the forlorn bride with Miss Marie Lohr's.
  3. (ergative, figuratively) To render or to become weak and ineffective.
    His authority and influence over his coordinates broke down gradually.
    • 2012 June 2, Phil McNulty, “England 1-0 Belgium”, in BBC Sport:
      Hodgson's approach may not illuminate proceedings in Poland and Ukraine but early evidence suggests they will be tough to break down.
  4. (ergative) To (cause to) decay, to decompose.
    Leaves and grass will break down into compost faster if you keep them moist.
  5. (ergative, figuratively) To divide into parts to give more details, to provide a more indepth analysis of.
    If you don't understand, ask him to break down the numbers for you.
  6. (ergative) To digest.
    His stomach took a while to break down his food.


See also[edit]


break down (plural break downs)

  1. Misspelling of breakdown.