break down

Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::
break down vb (adverb)
  1. (intransitive) to cease to function; become ineffective
  2. to yield or cause to yield, esp to strong emotion or tears
  3. (transitive) to crush or destroy
  4. (intransitive) to have a nervous breakdown
  5. to analyse or be subjected to analysis
  6. to separate or cause to separate into simpler chemical elements; decompose
  7. break it downAustral NZ informal stop it
  8. don't expect me to believe that; come off it
n breakdown
  1. an act or instance of breaking down; collapse
  2. short for nervous breakdown
  3. an analysis or classification of something into its component parts: he prepared a breakdown of the report
  4. a lively American country dance
WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2020
break /breɪk/USA pronunciation   v.,  broke/broʊk/USA pronunciation  bro•ken/ˈbroʊkən/USA pronunciation  break•ing, n. 
  1. to smash, split, or divide into parts violently: [+ object]He took the vase and broke it open.[no object]The vase broke.
  2. to (cause to) stop working, as through wear or damage: [+ object]I broke my watch.[no object]My watch broke.
  3. to disobey or disregard (a law, promise, etc.):[+ object]She broke her promise not to drink.
  4. to fracture a bone of: [+ object]He broke his arm.[no object]His arm broke when he fell on it.
  5. to burst through (the surface of);
    rupture: [+ object]When you fell you just broke the skin, so there's only a little blood.[no object]The blood vessel broke and blood poured out.
  6. to interrupt (quiet, peace, or some continuing process or activity): [+ object]A scream broke the silence.[no object]Let's break for lunch and come back later.
  7. to (cause to) come to an end;
    stop: [+ object]He broke radio contact when he realized he was being intercepted.[no object]Radio contact broke after just a few moments.
  8. Cryptography to discover the system, etc., for figuring out (a code):[+ object]During World War II theUnited States had broken the Japanese war codes.
  9. [+ object] to exchange for, or divide into, smaller units: Can you break a ten-dollar bill?
  10. [+ object] to make a way through;
    penetrate: The stone broke the surface of the water.
  11. [+ object] to escape from, esp. by force: to break jail.
  12. to better (a record):[+ object]When he jumped over eight feet he broke the old record of 7 feet 10 inches.
  13. [+ object] to tell or reveal: They broke the news to us gently.
  14. [+ object] to solve: to break a murder case.
  15. to ruin financially;
    bankrupt:[+ object]had made many enemies who worked together to break him.
  16. to (cause to) be overcome or worn down;
    (cause to) give in to pressure: [+ object]The police broke the spy in just a few hours.[no object]The captured spy broke quickly.
  17. to lessen the power or intensity of:[+ object]In order to break your fall, slap your arm against the floor as you go down.
  18. [+ object] to train to obedience;
    tame: to break a horse.
  19. to train away from a habit or practice:[+ object + of + object]tried to break him of his habit of biting his fingernails.
  20. Electricity to stop the flow of (a current):[+ object]He broke the circuit by disconnecting the wires.
  21. to become detached or disassociated: [+ from/with + object]decided to break from the past and leave her small town for good.
  22. Journalismto (cause a news item to) be released, published, or aired: [no object]The story broke the next day inmost newspapers.[+ object]The reporter promised not to break the story.
  23. to free oneself or escape suddenly, as from restraint:[no object]She broke free and dashed away.
  24. to run or dash toward something suddenly;
    force one's way: [+ for]He broke for the goal line.[no object]The hunters broke through the underbrush.
  25. [no object] (of the day or dawn) to grow light: Day was breaking.
  26. to appear or begin violently and suddenly:[no object]After some rumbling in the distance,the storm suddenly broke.
  27. to give way or fail, as health or spirit:[no object]Her spirit broke when her two daughters died so young.
  28. (to cause the heart) to be overwhelmed with sorrow: [no object]His heart broke when she married another.[+ object]He broke her heart when he married another.
  29. (of the voice) to waver or change tone abruptly, as from emotion or the beginning of maturity:[no object]When she started to talk about the attack, her voice broke. When he turned fourteen his voice began to break.
  30. to drop, turn, or change direction down sharply and considerably: [no object]Stock prices broke quickly at the New York exchange.[+ object]The pitcher broke his curveball over the plate and the batter swung at it.
  31. [no object] to fall or collapse by colliding with something: The waves broke on the shore.
  32. Games to make the opening play in pool by scattering the racked balls with the cue ball:[no object]She won the toss to break and the game began.
  33. Sport[no object] to leave the starting point in a race: The horses broke from the gate.
  34. break away, [no object;  ~ + away (+ from + object)]
    • to leave, esp. suddenly:One of the suspects broke away and dashed into the subway station.
    • to cut off connections with (a group or tradition):decided to break away from the Democratic party and form his own.
  35. break down,
    • [no object] to stop working;
      fail:The car broke down on the highway.
    • to cause to collapse or stop working: [+ down + object]to break down resistance.[+ object + down]to break it down.
    • to separate into component parts: [no object]These proteins will break down in your stomach.[+ down + object]Enzymes in your stomach break down proteins.[+ object + down]Let me break it down (= analyze the situation) for you.
    • [no object] to lose control over one's emotions, esp. to cry:just broke down and began sobbing.
    • [no object] to have a complete physical or mental collapse.
  36. break even, [no object] to finish something with no loss and no gain:lucky just to break even this year.
  37. break in,
    • [no object] to enter a house or property by force or unlawfully:The thief broke in yesterday.
    • to train to a new situation: [+ in + object]He managed to break in a new assistant.[+ object + in]He managed to break her in in just a few days.
    • to wear or use (something new) and thereby ease stiffness, tightness, etc.: [+ in + object]to break in his new shoes.[+ object + in]to break them in.
    • [no object] to interrupt: He broke in with an objection.
  38. break in on or upon, [+ in + on + object] to intrude upon:I'm sorry to break in on you like this.
  39. break into, [+ into + object]
    • to interrupt:broke into the conversation and began shouting.
    • to express (an emotion, etc.) suddenly:broke into a huge smile when she saw me.
    • to begin making a sound:broke into a song.
    • to enter (a profession):She broke into journalism when she was eighteen.
    • to enter (property) by force:broke into the storage room and grabbed the safe.
  40. break off,
    • to cut off or remove (a part of) by breaking: [+ off + object]I broke off a piece of meat.[+ object + off]to break a piece off.
    • to stop suddenly;
      discontinue: [+ off + object]The two nations decided to break off relations.[+ object + off]to break them off.
  41. break out,
    • [no object] to begin suddenly;
      arise:An epidemic broke out.
    • [no object;  (~ + out + in)] (of a person's appearance) to have a mark or spots on the skin appear suddenly:Her face broke out in red blotches.
    • [+ out + object] to take out or prepare for use:to break out the parachutes.
    • [no object] to escape;
      flee:The prisoner broke out at about noon.
  42. break up,
    • [no object] to separate;
      scatter:The crowd broke up and people went on their way.
    • to (cause to) come to an end;
      discontinue: [+ up + object]The cops broke up the fight.[+ object + up]All right, break it up![no object]The meeting broke up.
    • to (cause a personal relationship to) end: [no object]decided to break up after five years.[+ up + object]Their children didn't break up their marriage.[+ object + up]to break it up.
    • to (cause someone to) laugh a great deal: [no object]When she heard that joke she just broke up.[+ object + up]That joke just broke her up.
  43. break with, [+ with + object] to separate from:to break with one's family.

n. [countable]
  1. an opening made by or as if by breaking:a break in the window.
  2. an act or instance of breaking;
    rupture:heard a sharp crack and knew that she had suffered a clean break of her leg.
  3. an interruption or stopping of something:[usually singular]a break with tradition.
  4. a brief rest, as from work:Let's take a break; I'm tired of all this homework.
  5. a sudden and obvious change:waited for a break in the weather.
  6. an attempt to escape:Let's make a break for it!
  7. Informal Termsa case or piece of luck, esp. good luck:What a lucky break!
  8. Informal Terms the breaks, [plural] Informal. the way things happen;
    fate: Those are the breaks.
  9. Gamesthe opening play in a game of pool, in which the white ball is shot to scatter the balls.
  1. Idiomsbreak camp, to pack up tents and equipment and start again on a journey or march.
  2. Idioms break (new) ground,
    • to begin construction, esp. of a building:to break ground for a new housing development.
    • to start something new or from the beginning:Thelatest study linking heart attacks with smoking cigarettes doesn't really break any new ground.

WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2020
break  (brāk),USA pronunciation v.,  broke  or (Archaic) brake;
  or (Archaic) broke;

  1. to smash, split, or divide into parts violently;
    reduce to pieces or fragments:He broke a vase.
  2. to infringe, ignore, or act contrary to (a law, rule, promise, etc.):She broke her promise.
  3. to dissolve or annul (often fol. by off):to break off friendly relations with another country.
  4. to fracture a bone of (some part of the body):He broke his leg.
  5. to lacerate;
    wound:to break the skin.
  6. to destroy or interrupt the regularity, uniformity, continuity, or arrangement of;
    interrupt:The bleating of a foghorn broke the silence. The troops broke formation.
  7. to put an end to;
    stop:His touchdown run broke the tie. She found it hard to break the cigarette habit.
  8. Cryptographyto discover the system, key, method, etc., for decoding or deciphering (a cryptogram), esp. by the methods of cryptanalysis.
  9. to remove a part from (a set or collection):She had to break the set to sell me the two red ones I wanted.
  10. to exchange for or divide into smaller units or components:She broke a dollar bill into change. The prism broke the light into all the colors of the rainbow.
  11. to make a way through;
    penetrate:The stone broke the surface of the water.
  12. Law
    • Lawto open or force one's way into (a dwelling, store, etc.).
    • Lawto contest (a will) successfully by judicial action.
  13. to make one's way out of, esp. by force:to break jail.
  14. to better (a given score or record):He never broke 200 in bowling or 80 in golf.
  15. to disclose or divulge personally in speech or writing:He broke the good news to her at dinner.
  16. to solve:The police needed only a week to break that case.
  17. to rupture (a blood vessel):She almost broke a blood vessel from laughing so hard.
  18. to disable or destroy by or as if by shattering or crushing:to break a watch.
  19. to cause (a blister, boil, or the like) to burst, as by puncturing:She broke the blister with a needle.
  20. to ruin financially;
    make bankrupt:They threatened to break him if he didn't stop discounting their products.
  21. to overcome or wear down the spirit, strength, or resistance of;
    to cause to yield, esp. under pressure, torture, or the like:They broke him by the threat of blackmail.
  22. to dismiss or reduce in rank.
  23. to impair or weaken the power, effect, or intensity of:His arm broke the blow.
  24. to train to obedience;
    tame:to break a horse.
  25. to train away from a habit or practice (usually fol. by of ).
  26. Electricityto render (a circuit) incomplete;
    stop the flow of (a current).
  27. Journalism
    • to release (a story) for publication or airing on radio or television:They will break the story tomorrow.
    • to continue (a story or article) on another page, esp. when the page is not the following one.
  28. Games[Pool.]to cause (racked billiard balls) to scatter by striking with the cue ball.
  29. [Sports.]
    • Sport(of a pitcher, bowler, etc.) to hurl (a ball) in such a way as to cause it to change direction after leaving the hand:He broke a curve over the plate for a strike.
    • Sport(in tennis and other racket games) to score frequently or win against (an opponent's serve).
  30. Nautical, Naval Termsto unfurl (a flag) suddenly by an easily released knot.
  31. to prove the falsity or show the lack of logic of:The FBI broke his alibi by proving he knew how to shoot a pistol.
  32. to begin or initiate (a plan or campaign), esp. with much publicity:They were going to break the sales campaign with a parade in April.
  33. to open the breech or action of (a shotgun, rifle, or revolver), as by snapping open the hinge between the barrel and the butt.

  1. to shatter, burst, or become broken;
    separate into parts or fragments, esp. suddenly and violently:The glass broke on the floor.
  2. to become suddenly discontinuous or interrupted;
    stop abruptly:She pulled too hard and the string broke.
  3. to become detached, separated, or disassociated (usually fol. by away, off, or from):The knob broke off in his hand.
  4. to become inoperative or to malfunction, as through wear or damage:The television set broke this afternoon.
  5. to begin suddenly or violently or change abruptly into something else:War broke over Europe.
  6. to begin uttering a sound or series of sounds or to be uttered suddenly:She broke into song. When they entered, a cheer broke from the audience.
  7. to express or start to express an emotion or mood:His face broke into a smile.
  8. to free oneself or escape suddenly, as from restraint or dependency (often fol. by away):He broke away from the arresting officer. She finally broke away from her parents and got an apartment of her own.
  9. to run or dash toward something suddenly (usually fol. by for):The pass receiver broke for the goal line.
  10. to force a way (usually fol. by in, into, or through):The hunters broke through the underbrush.
  11. to burst or rupture:A blood vessel broke in his nose. The blister broke when he pricked it.
  12. to interrupt or halt an activity (usually fol. by in, into, forth, or from):Don't break in on the conversation. Let's break for lunch.
  13. to appear or arrive suddenly (usually fol. by in, into, or out):A deer broke into the clearing. A rash broke out on her arm.
  14. to dawn:The day broke hot and sultry.
  15. to begin violently and suddenly:The storm broke.
  16. (of a storm, foul weather, etc.) to cease:The weather broke after a week, and we were able to sail for home.
  17. to part the surface of water, as a jumping fish or surfacing submarine.
  18. to give way or fail, as health, strength, or spirit;
    collapse:After years of hardship and worry, his health broke.
  19. to yield or submit to pressure, torture, or the like:He broke under questioning.
  20. (of the heart) to be overwhelmed with sorrow:Her heart broke when he told her that he no longer loved her.
  21. (of the voice or a musical instrument) to change harshly from one register or pitch to another:After his voice broke, he could no longer sing soprano parts.
  22. (of the voice) to cease, waver, or change tone abruptly, esp. from emotional strain:His voice broke when he mentioned her name.
  23. (of value or prices) to drop sharply and considerably.
  24. to disperse or collapse by colliding with something:The waves broke on the shore.
  25. Music and Danceto break dance.
  26. Sport(of a horse in a harness race) to fail to keep to a trot or pace, as by starting to gallop.
  27. [Bot.]to mutate;
  28. Linguisticsto undergo breaking.
  29. Games[Billiards, Pool.]to make a break;
    take the first turn in a game.
  30. Sport(of a pitched or bowled ball) to change direction:The ball broke over the plate.
  31. Sport[Horse Racing, Track.]to leave the starting point:The horses broke fast from the gate.
  32. Sport[Boxing.]to step back or separate from a clinch:The fighters fell into a clinch and broke on the referee's order.
  33. to take place;
  34. Journalismto become known, published, or aired:The story broke in the morning papers.
  35. [Hort.]to produce flowers or leaves.
  36. break away: 
    • to leave or escape, esp. suddenly or hurriedly.
    • to sever connections or allegiance, as to tradition or a political group.
    • to start prematurely:The horse broke away from the starting gate.
  37. break back, [Tennis.]to win a game served by an opponent immediately after the opponent has done so against one's own serve.
  38. Nautical, Naval Termsbreak bulk, to remove a cargo wholly or in part.
  39. Idiomsbreak camp, to pack up tents and equipment and resume a journey or march:They broke camp at dawn and proceeded toward the mountains.
  40. Electricity, Chemistrybreak down: 
    • to become ineffective.
    • to lose control;
      weaken:He broke down and wept at the sad news.
    • to have a physical or mental collapse.
    • to cease to function:The car broke down.
    • to itemize:to break down a hotel bill into daily charges.
    • Chemistryto separate (a compound) into its constituent molecules.
    • [Elect.](of an insulator) to fail, as when subjected to excessively high voltage, permitting a current to pass.
    • to decompose.
    • to analyze.
    • to classify.
    • to separate into constituent parts:to break down a beef carcass into basic cuts.
  41. break even, to finish a business transaction, period of gambling, series of games, etc., with no loss or gain:He played poker all night and broke even.
  42. Idiomsbreak ground: 
    • to begin construction, esp. of a building or group of buildings:to break ground for a new housing development.
    • , Nautical[Naut.]to free an anchor from the bottom;
      break out.
  43. break in: 
    • to enter by force or craft:Someone broke in and made off with all the furniture.
    • to train or instruct;
      initiate:The boss is breaking in a new assistant.
    • to begin to wear or use in order to make comfortable:These shoes haven't been broken in.
    • to interrupt:He broke in with a ridiculous objection.
    • Mechanical Engineeringto run (new machinery) initially under reduced load and speed, until any stiffness of motion has departed and all parts are ready to operate under normal service conditions;
      run in;
      wear in.
  44. break in on or  upon, to enter with force upon or accidentally interrupt;
    intrude upon:The visitor opened the wrong door and broke in on a private conference.
  45. break into: 
    • to interpose;
      interrupt:He broke into the conversation at a crucial moment.
    • to begin some activity.
    • to be admitted into;
      enter, as a business or profession:It is difficult to break into the theater.
    • to enter by force:They broke into the store and stole the safe.
  46. British Terms, Idiomsbreak it down, [Australian Slang.]
    • stop it;
      calm down.
    • (used as an exclamation of disbelief ) that can't be true!
  47. break off: 
    • to sever by breaking.
    • to stop suddenly;
      discontinue:to break off a conversation; to break off relations with one's neighbors.
  48. Dialect Terms, Idiomsbreak one's heart. See  heart (def. 19).
  49. break out: 
    • to begin abruptly;
      arise:An epidemic broke out.
    • Pathology(of certain diseases) to appear in eruptions.
    • (of a person) to manifest a skin eruption.
    • to prepare for use:to break out the parachutes.
    • to take out of (storage, concealment, etc.) for consumption:to break out one's best wine.
    • Naval Terms[Naut.]to dislodge (the anchor) from the bottom.
    • to escape;
      flee:He spent three years in prison before he broke out.
    • to separate into categories or list specific items:to break out gift ideas according to price range; The report breaks out quarterly profits and losses.
  50. Sportbreak service, [Tennis.]to win a game served by one's opponent.
  51. Nautical, Naval Termsbreak sheer, (of an anchored vessel) to drift into such a position as to risk fouling the anchor or anchor cable. Cf. sheer2 (def. 6).
  52. Idiomsbreak step. See  step (def. 20).
  53. break up: 
    • to separate;
    • to put an end to;
    • to divide or become divided into pieces.
    • to dissolve.
    • to disrupt;
      upset:Television commercials during a dramatic presentation break up the continuity of effect.
    • (of a personal relationship) to end:to break up a friendship; Their marriage broke up last year.
    • to end a personal relationship:Bob and Mary broke up last month.
    • to be or cause to be overcome with laughter:The comedian told several jokes that broke up the audience.
  54. break wind. See  wind1 (def. 21).
  55. break with: 
    • to sever relations with;
      separate from:to break with one's family.
    • to depart from;
      repudiate:to break with tradition.

  1. an act or instance of breaking;
    disruption or separation of parts;
    rupture:There was a break in the window.
  2. an opening made by breaking;
    gap:The break in the wall had not been repaired.
  3. a rush away from a place;
    an attempt to escape:a break for freedom.
  4. a sudden dash or rush, as toward something:When the rain lessened, I made a break for home.
  5. a suspension of or sudden rupture in friendly relations.
  6. an interruption of continuity;
    departure from or rupture with:Abstract painters made a break with the traditions of the past.
  7. an abrupt or marked change, as in sound or direction, or a brief pause:They noticed a curious break in his voice.
  8. Informal Terms
    • an opportunity or stroke of fortune, esp. a lucky one.
    • a chance to improve one's lot, esp. one unlooked for or undeserved.
  9. Informal Termsthe breaks, the way things happen;
    fate:Sorry to hear about your bad luck, but I guess those are the breaks.
  10. a brief rest, as from work:The actors took a ten-minute break from rehearsal.
  11. Show Business[Radio, Television.]a brief, scheduled interruption of a program or broadcasting period for the announcement of advertising or station identification.
  12. Poetry[Pros.]a pause or caesura.
  13. Music and Dance[Jazz.]a solo passage, usually of from 2 to 12 bars, during which the rest of the instruments are silent.
  14. Music and Dancethe point in the scale where the quality of voice of one register changes to that of another, as from chest to head.
  15. Music and DanceSee  break dancing. 
  16. Businessa sharp and considerable drop in the prices of stock issues.
  17. Electricityan opening or discontinuity in a circuit.
  18. [Print.]
    • Printingone or more blank lines between two paragraphs.
    • Printingbreaks. See  suspension points. 
  19. Printingthe place, after a letter, where a word is or may be divided at the end of a line.
  20. a collapse of health, strength, or spirit;
  21. Informal Termsan indiscreet or awkward remark or action;
    social blunder;
    faux pas.
  22. Games[Billiards, Pool.]a series of successful strokes;
  23. Games[Pool.]the opening play, in which the cue ball is shot to scatter the balls.
  24. Sporta change in direction of a pitched or bowled ball.
  25. Sport[Horse Racing, Track.]the start of a race.
  26. Sport(in harness racing) an act or instance of a horse's changing from a trot or pace into a gallop or other step.
  27. Sport[Bowling.]a failure to knock down all ten pins in a single frame.
  28. Sport[Boxing.]an act or instance of stepping back or separating from a clinch:a clean break.
  29. any of several stages in the grinding of grain in which the bran is separated from the kernel.
  30. Botanya sport.
  31. Journalismthe point at the bottom of a column where a printed story is carried over to another column or page.
  32. Nautical, Naval Termsthe place at which a superstructure, deckhouse, or the like, rises from the main deck of a vessel.
  33. Geographybreaks, [Phys. Geog.]an area dissected by small ravines and gullies.
  34. Mininga fault or offset, as in a vein or bed of ore.
breaka•ble, adj. 
breaka•ble•ness, n. 
breaka•bly, adv. 
breakless, adj. 
  • bef. 900; Middle English breken, Old English brecan; cognate with Dutch breken, German brechen, Gothic brikan; akin to Latin frangere; see fragile
    • 1.See corresponding entry in Unabridged fracture, splinter, shiver.
      Break, crush, shatter, smash mean to reduce to parts, violently or by force.
      Break means to divide by means of a blow, a collision, a pull, or the like:to break a chair, a leg, a strap.To
      crush is to subject to (usually heavy or violent) pressure so as to press out of shape or reduce to shapelessness or to small particles:to crush a beetle.To
      shatter is to break in such a way as to cause the pieces to fly in many directions:to shatter a light globe.To
      smash is to break noisily and suddenly into many pieces:to smash a glass.
    • 2.See corresponding entry in Unabridged disobey, contravene.
    • 6.See corresponding entry in Unabridged disrupt.
    • 14.See corresponding entry in Unabridged surpass, beat.
    • 22.See corresponding entry in Unabridged demote.
    • 34.See corresponding entry in Unabridged fragment, smash.
    • 89.See corresponding entry in Unabridged rent, tear, rip, rift, split;
      breach, fissure, crack.
    • 94.See corresponding entry in Unabridged stop, hiatus, lacuna, pause, caesura.
    • 1.See corresponding entry in Unabridged repair.

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