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From Latin comminūtiō (breaking into pieces, crumbling, shattering; crushing, pulverizing), from Latin comminuō (to break or crumble into small pieces; to crush, pulverize) (from com- (prefix indicating completeness) + minuō (to make smaller; to diminish, lessen), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *mey- (little, small)) + Latin -tiō (suffix forming a noun relating to some action or the result of an action); equivalent to comminute +‎ -ion.



comminution (countable and uncountable, plural comminutions)

  1. (often mining, waste management) The breaking or grinding up of a material to form smaller particles.
    • 1692–1693 February, “VI. An Account of a Book. Novæ Hypotheseos, ad explicanda febrium intermittentium Symptomata & Typos excogitatæ Hypotyposis. Unà cum Ætiologià Remediorium; speciatim vero de curatione per Corticem Peruvianum. Accessit Dissertatiuncula de Intestinorum motu Peristaltico. Authore Guilielmo Cole, M.D. Lond. in 8º. 1693.”, in Philosophical Transactions, volume VI, number 197, London: Printed for, and sold by Samuel Smith, printer to the Royal Society, at the Princes Arms in St. Paul's Church-yard, published 1693, OCLC 630046584, page 652:
      He deſcribes in a Mechanical way the manner of its Action; ſuppoſing that ſome of its Particles having undergone ſeveral Comminutions (tho not a Diſſolution) from the various Firments they have paſſed, arrive at laſt, with the Blood, at the Brain; [] thoſe of them, which are not ſmall enough to paſs thoſe Straits along with the Juice, being juſt admitted, ſtick there till other appelling Subſtances give them a farther Comminution, and ſo pretrude them along: []
    • 1696 March–May, William Cowper, “IV. An Account of Chylification”, in Philosophical Transactions. Giving Some Accompt of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours, of the Ingenious, in Many Considerable Parts of the World, volume XIX, number 220, Oxford: Printed at the Theater, and are to be sold by Samuel Smith, at the Prince's Arms in St Paul's Church-yard, London; and Henry Clements, bookseller in Oxford, OCLC 630046584, pages 231–232:
      [W]hen a proportionable piece [of an aliment (food item)] is thus taken into the Mouth, the lower Jaw is variouſly mov'd by its proper Muſcles, and Maſtication is begun and carryed on by the Aſſiſtance of the Tongue, Cheeks, and Lips; the two firſt ſtill applying the leſs divided parts of the Aliment, to the Dentes Molares [molar teeth], till there's an equal Comminution of all its Parts; []
    • 1714, W[illiam] Derham, “Of the Food of Animals”, in Physico-theology: Or, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, from His Works of Creation. Being the Substance of Sixteen Sermons Preached in St. Mary le Bow-Church, London, at the Honourable Mr. Boyle’s Lectures, in the Year 1711 and 1712. With Large Notes, and Many Curious Observations, 3rd corrected edition, London: Printed for W. Innys, at the Prince's-Arms in St. Paul's Church Yard, OCLC 642395327, page 193:
      It's [the mouth's] hooked Form is of great Uſe to the rapacious Kind [of bird], in catching and holding their Prey, and in the Comminution thereof by tearing; to others it is no less ſerviceable to their climbing, as well as neat and nice Comminution of their Food.
    • 1854, Andrew Brown, chapter 13, in The Philosophy of Physics: Or, Process of Creative Development, by which the First Principles of Physics are Proved beyond Controversy, and Their Effect in the Formation of All Physical Things Made Comprehensible to All Intelligent Minds, as in Phenomenal Nature, New York, N.Y.: [J. S.] Redfield, 110 & 112 Nassau Street, OCLC 3694778, page 417:
      [B]y what process, we would ask, could these sands have been sifted and separated agreeable to their grades, as they are now found? What circumstances could have effected such comminutions, such separations, such transpositions, and transportations of the several kinds, having all the same origin?
    • 1873, Barnard S. Proctor, “Lecture II. Comminution.”, in Lectures on Practical Pharmacy, London: J[ohn] & A[ugustus] Churchill, New Burlington Street, OCLC 4696801, page 28:
      What circumstances determine the degree of comminution to which a substance should be subjected preparatory to future extraction?
    • 1908, H[erbert] G[eorge] Wells, “Of Bladesover House, and My Mother; and the Constitution of Society”, in Tono-Bungay [], book I (The Days before Tono-Bungay was Invented), Toronto, Ont.: The Macmillan Company of Canada, Ltd., OCLC 15156840, section VIII, page 40:
      I hadn't fought ten seconds befre I felt this softness in him, realised all that quality of modern upper-class England that never goes to the quick, that hedges about rules and those petty points of honour that are the ultimate comminution of honour, that claims credit for things demonstrably half done.
    • 1978, J. P. La Fage; W. L. Nutting, “Nutrient Dynamics of Termites”, in M. V. Brian, editor, Production Ecology of Ants and Termites (International Biological Programme; 13), Cambridge; New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 165:
      Termites are herbivores and detritivores variously involved in the comminution and decomposition of vegetable matter, through most of the warm temperate and tropical zones.
  2. (traumatology) The fracture of a bone site in multiple pieces (technically, at least three); crumbling.
    • 1851, Friedrich Esmarch, “On the Treatment of These Injuries”, in On Resection in Gun-shot Injuries. Observation and Experience in the Schleswig-Holstein Campaigns of 1848 to 1851, Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany: Carl Schroder & Co., OCLC 78249921, part I (On the Injuries of Shafts of Bones by Bullets), page 56:
      Comminution of the shaft of one or of both bones of the fore-arm does not of itself indicate operative interference, other complications may necessitate primary or secondary amputation.
    • 2016, Ping-Chung Leung; Kwong-Sui Leung; Leung-Kim Hung, “Hand and Wrist Injuries”, in Nikolaj Wolfson, editor, Orthpedics in Disasters: Orthopedic Injuries in Natural Disasters and Mass Casualty Events, Heidelberg: Springer Nature, DOI:10.1007/978-3-662=48950-5, →ISBN, part IV (Treatment of Orthopaedic Injuries: Specific Orthopaedic Injuries), section 27.6.1 (Distal Radius Fracture), page 300, column 2:
      Wrist fractures encountered in natural disasters most frequently belong to the more complicated types, viz. III, IV and VIII. Importantly, comminutions are common. When both radius and ulnar[sic, meaning ulna] are involved with comminutions, joint surface involvements are often combined with soft tissue injuries.

Usage notes[edit]

In traumatology, comminution is to be distinguished from a compound or open fracture, though fractures which are both comminuted and compound do occur.


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