Share this entry

Share this page

break down

Definition of break down in English:

1(Of a machine or motor vehicle) suddenly cease to function: his van broke down
More example sentences
  • The washing machine broke down - again - over Christmas.
  • Leaving for class the next day, my car suddenly broke down.
  • If a particular washing machine broke down after seven months of normal use, it would seem probable that there was something wrong with it at the time of sale.
1.1(Of a person) have the vehicle they are driving cease to function: she broke down on the highway
More example sentences
  • Unlike the Paris to Dakar rally, where every car has a support vehicle, if we break down in the Sahara we'll be hitching our way out.
  • If you break down in the desert, stay with your vehicle and never try to do anything in the heat of the day.
  • If you do break down or have to abandon your vehicle, try to push it off the carriageway.
1.2(Of a relationship, agreement, or process) cease to continue; collapse: pay negotiations with management broke down
More example sentences
  • John is urging owners to pay more consideration to their animals' needs when their marriage or relationship breaks down.
  • Doctors have gone on strike after an agreement with management broke down.
  • After wage negotiations with hospital management broke down last week, the National Medical Workers Union last Thursday voted in favor of a strike.
Synonyms
fail, collapse, founder, fall through, disintegrate
informal fizzle out
1.3Lose control of one’s emotions when in a state of distress: if she had tried to utter a word, she would have broken down the old woman broke down in tears
More example sentences
  • He tried to keep calm, not wanting to lose control and break down in front of the man who was challenging him.
  • In December 1998 he broke down in tears after losing to a little - known rival from Hong Kong.
  • She was afraid she would lose herself and completely break down.
Synonyms
burst into tears;
lose control, be overcome, go to pieces, crumble, disintegrate
informal crack up, lose it
1.4(Of a person’s health or emotional control) fail or collapse: his health broke down under the strain of overwork
More example sentences
  • In the summer of 1927, the Indian prince's health broke down and he went to Switzerland to recuperate.
  • I nursed my wife for three-and-a-half years until my health broke down.
  • For the next ten years, until his health broke down, he worked with great zeal to establish a public system of elementary education, supervised by a national body of inspectors.
2Undergo chemical decomposition: waste products that break down into low-level toxic materials
More example sentences
  • Ozone also tends to be unstable and break down into dioxygen and nascent oxygen and to react readily with other substances.
  • Rather, large molecules tend to break down into smaller ones.
  • In the chemical reaction, compounds break down to form various gases.
See parent entry: break

Definition of break down in:

Share this entry

Share this page

 

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day ingratiate
Pronunciation: inˈɡrāSHēˌāt
verb
bring oneself into favor with someone through flattery…