Definition of decompose in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌdēkəmˈpōz/


1(With reference to a dead body or other organic matter) make or become rotten; decay or cause to decay: [no object]: leaves stuffed in plastic bags do not decompose (as adjective decomposed) the body was badly decomposed [with object]: dead plant matter can be completely decomposed by microorganisms
More example sentences
  • The body begins to decompose soon after it is buried.
  • It takes several weeks or longer, depending upon the size, for the body to completely decompose.
  • ‘When a body decomposes in water, it becomes completely disfigured,’ he continues.
decay, rot, putrefy, go bad, go off, spoil, fester, perish, deteriorate;
degrade, break down, molder, shrivel, wither;
1.1(With reference to a chemical compound) break down or cause to break down into component elements or simpler constituents: [no object]: many chemicals decompose rapidly under high temperature
More example sentences
  • When heated, it decomposes into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide gas.
  • Davy had developed a technique by which unusually stable compounds could be decomposed into their constituent elements.
  • All dioxins are very stable and unlike most other chemicals do not quickly decompose or break down in the environment.
break up, fragment, disintegrate, crumble, dissolve;
break down, decay



Pronunciation: /ˌdēkəmˈpōzəb(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • The problem of smells produced by food waste could be resolved by more frequent collection of decomposable waste during warm weather.
  • We're saying there's this stuff deep in the ice, and that if it is thawed out, it is actually very decomposable.
  • In this fashion, the problems that are decomposable into problems of bounded difficulty can be solved very efficiently (in sub-quadratic or quadratic time).


Mid 18th century (in the sense 'separate into simpler constituents'): from French décomposer, from de- (expressing reversal) + composer.

  • compost from Late Middle English:

    Garden compost and fruit compôte do not seem to have much in common, but they both derive from French compôte ‘stewed fruit’. This comes from Old French composte, from Latin compositum ‘something put together’—source of compose (Late Middle English) and decompose (mid 18th century), composition (Late Middle English), and component (mid 17th century). Compost has been used in the gardening sense since the late 16th century. The Latin word was formed from com- ‘with’ and the irregular verb ponere ‘put, place’. From this we also get impose (Late Middle English) ‘place (up)on’; oppose (Late Middle English) ‘place against’; positive and posture (late 16th century); preposition (Late Middle English) something put in front, and suppose (Middle English) literally something placed from below.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: de·com·pose

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