Definition of break down in English:

break down

phrasal verb

  • 1(of a machine or motor vehicle) suddenly cease to function:

    ‘his van broke down’
    • ‘If the machine breaks down, you could be left miles from help.’
    • ‘The washing machine broke down - again - over Christmas.’
    • ‘If your machine breaks down, this could prove costly.’
    • ‘Suddenly the bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere, which is officially the worst place to have a breakdown.’
    • ‘Leaving for class the next day, my car suddenly broke down.’
    • ‘That way, when the car breaks down, the washing machine floods the kitchen floor or the telly goes ping you don't need to make a drama out of a crisis.’
    • ‘Your new washing machine breaks down, and when you try to get someone to look at it, you're told you didn't fill in the guarantee form in time - even though you know you did.’
    • ‘Who is responsible, for instance, when a machine breaks down?’
    • ‘No-one knows when the car will break down, the washing machine go into hyper-spin, or worse still, you lose your job, your child becomes sick or your partner leaves you.’
    • ‘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.’
    stop working, cease to function, cease to work, go wrong, seize up, give out, develop a fault
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    1. 1.1 (of a relationship, agreement, or process) cease to continue; collapse:
      ‘pay negotiations with management broke down’
      • ‘While a relationship is breaking down, people can be unspeakably cruel to each other.’
      • ‘Relations with his own father suddenly and unexpectedly broke down.’
      • ‘John is urging owners to pay more consideration to their animals' needs when their marriage or relationship breaks down.’
      • ‘Your marriage breaks down (or you suddenly get hitched) and your life changes completely…’
      • ‘After wage negotiations with hospital management broke down last week, the National Medical Workers Union last Thursday voted in favor of a strike.’
      • ‘Doctors have gone on strike after an agreement with management broke down.’
      • ‘But when their relationship broke down he moved back to his North East home and lost touch.’
      • ‘The talks broke down on Friday without agreement.’
      • ‘Our relationship was breaking down, and I think she knew I was going to leave her.’
      • ‘Within weeks, however, the agreement began to break down and before long violence had reached an unparalleled intensity.’
      fail, collapse, come to nothing, founder, fall through, come to grief, be unsuccessful, not succeed, disintegrate
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    2. 1.2 Lose control of one's emotions when in a state of distress:
      ‘the old woman broke down in tears’
      • ‘She was afraid she would lose herself and completely break down.’
      • ‘Suddenly, she broke down into sobs, her hand leaving the knife handle and tears falling down her face like waterfalls.’
      • ‘Suddenly I found myself breaking down, my body heaving with sobs, and I felt Jordan's arms close around me and pull me close.’
      • ‘When my co-worker got off the phone, she just broke down in tears.’
      • ‘She didn't seem to be the type to suddenly break down.’
      • ‘She wondered if his whereabouts for the past 24 hours had something to do with his mood and that's what caused him to break down so suddenly tonight.’
      • ‘Emotion swept over her as she broke down in tears.’
      • ‘In December 1998 he broke down in tears after losing to a little - known rival from Hong Kong.’
      • ‘He tried to keep calm, not wanting to lose control and break down in front of the man who was challenging him.’
      • ‘The witness broke down in tears during her testimony.’
      burst into tears, dissolve into tears
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    3. 1.3 (of a person's health or emotional control) fail or collapse:
      ‘his health broke down under the strain of overwork’
      ‘Janet's normal self-control and impassiveness had broken down utterly’
      • ‘His health broke down in the Far East and he returned home to recuperate.’
      • ‘I nursed my wife for three-and-a-half years until my health broke down.’
      • ‘In 1883 Archibald's health broke down and he travelled to London, hoping perhaps to make his fortune on Fleet Street.’
      • ‘His health, precarious since the war, broke down in 1921.’
      • ‘In the spring of 1901 his 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.’
      • ‘In the summer of 1927, the Indian prince's health broke down and he went to Switzerland to recuperate.’
      • ‘Golf was another pleasure until his health broke down.’
      • ‘He was appointed to this chair in 1883 but his health, which had always been poor, broke down completely in February 1886.’
      • ‘‘I'm scared of being old and dying without dignity and my body breaking down,’ he continues.’
  • 2Undergo chemical decomposition:

    ‘waste products which break down into low-level toxic materials’
    • ‘During digestion, carbohydrates break down into sugar and enter the bloodstream in the form of glucose, a simple sugar.’
    • ‘In the chemical reaction, compounds break down to form various gases.’
    • ‘You can throw your cuttings as well as dried leaves in your compost bin, which will break down into a nutrient-rich compost for next season.’
    • ‘When you eat carbs, they break down into glucose, which is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver.’
    • ‘The use of aspartame is limited at high or prolonged temperatures because it breaks down and loses its sweetness.’
    • ‘Grass cuttings, if not mixed with other stuff, will break down into a layer of thick green sludge.’
    • ‘Rather, large molecules tend to break down into smaller ones.’
    • ‘These plastics eventually break down into harmless products, but only after up to several hundred years.’
    • ‘Ozone also tends to be unstable and break down into dioxygen and nascent oxygen and to react readily with other substances.’
    • ‘In other cases, a drug may break down into other, harmful substances.’