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See also: melt down


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From the verb phrase melt down.


  • Hyphenation: melt‧down


meltdown (countable and uncountable, plural meltdowns)

  1. Severe overheating of the core of a nuclear reactor resulting in the core melting and potentially in radiation escaping.
    Four years have passed since the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, but the grim legacy of the Soviet catastrophe is still unfolding. [1]
  2. A situation being likened to a nuclear meltdown; a crisis.
    • 2001, James Wickham, “Perv Spoof Bosses Axe Wrestling”, in The Daily Star:
      Channel 4 switchboards went into meltdown this week when viewers called to complain about a Brass Eye programme on child sex.
    Computer engineers were at a loss last night to explain why the Government had been hit by arguably the worst electronic meltdown in the history of Whitehall. [2]
    • 2019 August 30, Jackie Flynn Mogensen, “One Very Bad Habit Is Fueling the Global Recycling Meltdown”, in Mother Jones[3]:
      Not only that, but wishcycling is playing a big role in the current global recycling meltdown.
  3. (psychology) An autistic response to stress or sensory overload, in which the person is overwhelmed by intense, seemingly disproportionate emotions, behaving erratically and becoming unable to mask.
    • 2016, Laura, quoted in Wenn Lawson & Kirsty Dempster-Rivett, The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum, page 26:
      Now if I am really anxious, I can take a moment to think about what is making me anxious and what to do about it; before I would just spiral into a meltdown really quickly, with no understanding of why.
    • 2019, Bill Nason, The Autism Discussion Page on Stress, Anxiety, Shutdowns and Meltdowns: Proactive Strategies for Minimizing Sensory, Social and Emotional Overload[4], page 171:
      However, if the accumulation of stress chemicals, stimulation and/or demands are occurring too fast or are too intense to block out, then a meltdown is probable.
    • 2022, Barb Cook; Yenn Purkiss, The Autism and Neurodiversity Self Advocacy Handbook: Developing the Skills to Determine Your Own Future[5], page 33:
      If you're experiencing challenges that are extremely stressful and may lead you to being overwhelmed, or set off a meltdown in the workplace, this may be very concerning to your work colleagues.
    • For more quotations using this term, see Citations:meltdown.
  4. (informal) A tantrum or emotional outburst.
    • 2006, Ercille Christmas, Thoughts of a Proud American, page 285:
      I had a major meltdown at work today. After being instructed one more time about additional work that I was to delegate to my direct reports, I snapped, but in a very polite manner.


Derived terms[edit]


  • Japanese: メルトダウン (merutodaun)


See also[edit]