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See also: break-down and break down



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Deverbal from break down.





breakdown (countable and uncountable, plural breakdowns)

  1. A failure, particularly mechanical in nature.
    Whenever she was behind the wheel, she would panic at the first sign of a breakdown.
  2. Something that has experienced a mechanical failure.
    We saw a breakdown by the side of the road.
  3. A physical collapse or lapse of mental stability.
    After so much stress, he suffered a breakdown and simply gave up.
  4. Listing, division or categorization in great detail.
    Looking at the breakdown of the budget, I see a few items we could cut.
    • 2023 March 8, Gareth Dennis, “The Reshaping of things to come...”, in RAIL, number 978, page 44:
      The railways' monopoly had meant that accountancy and record-keeping had been limited to global accounts. In other words, there were only really headline numbers, with little useful breakdown by routes or traffic type.
  5. (film, television) A detailed description of a forthcoming project, including the characters and roles required.
  6. (chemistry) Breaking of chemical bonds within a compound to produce simpler compounds or elements.
  7. (physics) The sudden transition of an electrical insulator to a conductor when subjected to a sufficiently strong voltage, caused by the partial or complete ionization of the insulator.
  8. A musical technique by which the music is stripped down, becoming simpler, varying in heaviness depending on the genre.
    • 1992, En Vogue, My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It) (song)
      And now it's time for a breakdown!
    • 1999, CMJ New Music Report, volume 59, number 631, page 28:
      The fired-up foursome takes itself very seriously, singing politically charged lyrics, which, in the tradition of Strife and Damnation AD, are strategically placed in the middle of slamming, moshable breakdowns.
  9. (sports) A loss of organization (of the parts of a system).
    • 2011 September 18, Ben Dirs, “Rugby World Cup 2011: England 41-10 Georgia”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      Georgia, ranked 16th in the world, dominated the breakdown before half-time and forced England into a host of infringements, but fly-half Merab Kvirikashvili missed three penalties.
  10. (US, dated) A noisy, rapid, shuffling dance engaged in competitively by a number of persons or pairs in succession, common in traditional African American music from the Southern United States.
  11. (US, dated) Any noisy dance performed by shuffling the feet, usually by one person at a time.
    • 1854, New England Tales:
      Don't clear out when the quadrilles are over, for we are going to have a breakdown to wind up with.
  12. (US) Any rapid bluegrass dance tune, especially featuring a five-string banjo.
    "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"
    • 1893, Mark Twain, “The Californian's Tale”, in The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories, published 1906:
      Towards nine the three miners said that as they had brought their instruments they might as well tune up, for the boys and girls would soon be arriving now, and hungry for a good old fashioned breakdown. A fiddle, a banjo, and a clarinet - these were the instruments.
    • 1898, Charles Garvice, Nell, of Shorne Mills[2], page 4:
      Without a change of countenance, as if he were deaf to her entreaties and threats, he tuned up the banjo, and played a breakdown.
    • 2005, Joe R. Lansdale, Sunset and Sawdust[3], page 65:
      she soon took up with a traveling shoe salesman who played the banjo, wandered away with him and his shoes, probably to the sound of a banjo breakdown
    • 2008, Stephen Davis, Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N' Roses[4], page 102:
      Izzy lays down some big chords while Slash plays the song's banjo breakdown of a theme.
    • 2011, Jenny Wingfield, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake[5], page 98:
      The grown-ups were lolling around on the porch and in the yard, finger snapping and foot tapping while Samuel played “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” on his fivestring banjo
    • 2011, Madison Smartt Bell, Soldier's Joy[6]:
      The banjo built up to breakdown speed and then took a sidestep into another register, an oddly complex net of notes which stretched out for a time and finally stopped on a full rest.
  13. (music) The percussion break of songs chosen by a DJ for use in hip-hop music.

Derived terms




See also



  • (The percussion break of songs chosen by a DJ for use in hip-hop music.) 2001. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: North America. Garland Publishing. Ellen Koskoff (Ed.). Pg. 694.