Definition of decompose in English:



  • 1(with reference to a dead body or other organic matter) make or become rotten; decay or cause to decay.

    no object ‘the body had begun to decompose’
    ‘decomposing fungi’
    with object ‘dead plant matter can be completely decomposed by microorganisms’
    • ‘Most of the hotel refuse consists of leftover food, which rapidly decomposes.’
    • ‘As these mulches slowly decompose, they provide organic matter which helps keep the soil loose.’
    • ‘The badly decomposed body of a man has been found in a reservoir at Ogden.’
    • ‘As the mulch decomposes in the summer heat, add more to maintain optimal mulch depth.’
    • ‘Submerged leaves decompose quickly and can cause scummy bacteria to form.’
    • ‘Peatlands consist of layer upon layer of partially decomposed plant material.’
    • ‘It takes several weeks or longer, depending upon the size, for the body to completely decompose.’
    • ‘In those few hours the body had began to already decompose.’
    • ‘In addition to improving soil structure, decomposing compost will slowly release plant nutrients.’
    • ‘The remains were so badly decomposed, scientists were unable to establish a cause of death, and murder was not ruled out.’
    • ‘‘When a body decomposes in water, it becomes completely disfigured,’ he continues.’
    • ‘While a corpse would normally decompose completely during this time, it is understood the body was partially preserved in a ‘mummified’ state for some reason.’
    • ‘Some 17 days passed before her badly decomposed body was found, 20 miles away.’
    • ‘‘When buried,’ says Emily, ‘an animal's body decomposes at a very slow rate - it can take up to 30 years.’’
    • ‘If there are badly decomposed or skeletal remains, we might be able to do facial reconstruction.’
    • ‘Her remains were so badly decomposed that no clear cause of death has been established, but South Yorkshire Police are treating her death as murder.’
    • ‘The body begins to decompose soon after it is buried.’
    • ‘Vets said some bacteria could still spread after the body decomposes and could infect human beings as well as animals.’
    • ‘The days when organic food conjured up images of overpriced vegetables decomposing before the eyes are well and truly over.’
    • ‘Leaves decompose quickly, which can turn water murky and even make it smelly.’
    decay, rot, putrefy, go bad, go off, spoil, fester, perish, deteriorate, degrade, break down, break up, moulder
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    1. 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’
      with object ‘living organisms are used to decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen’
      • ‘Without catalysis, hydrogen peroxide decomposes slowly over time to form water and oxygen gas.’
      • ‘For this reason, demolition experts prefer to use explosive chemicals that contain molecules that readily decompose to form gases.’
      • ‘Alcohol evaporates or is decomposed, so fermentation cannot be proven directly.’
      • ‘Benzoyl peroxide rapidly decomposes into benzoic acid and hydrogen peroxide and is also safe.’
      • ‘This water vapor can undergo a chemical change if enough additional heat is added, when it decomposes into oxygen gas and hydrogen gas.’
      • ‘Nitric acid can be thermally decomposed to give water, nitrogen dioxide, and oxygen.’
      • ‘All dioxins are very stable and unlike most other chemicals do not quickly decompose or break down in the environment.’
      • ‘In acidic mixtures, such as many soft drinks, sucrose will chemically decompose over a period of time.’
      • ‘As hydrogen peroxide decomposes to oxygen and water, the resulting rate of the evolution of oxygen and I 2 vary periodically.’
      • ‘Formic acid decomposes slowly at room temperature into carbon monoxide and Water.’
      • ‘When heated, it decomposes into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide gas.’
      • ‘Glyphosate has little residual activity and is rapidly decomposed to organic components by microorganisms in the soil.’
      • ‘Thus, two molecules of water have been decomposed into two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen.’
      • ‘When light strikes the film the silver halide decomposes to give silver.’
      • ‘The most significant user is the glass industry, which uses sodium carbonate to decompose silicates for glass making.’
      • ‘Regardless of whether it concerns volatile or solid substances, chemical explosives decompose into gas on detonation.’
      • ‘Nitriles can be decomposed by acids or alkalis to give the corresponding carboxylic acid or they can be reduced to give primary amines.’
      • ‘Oxyhemoglobin is a fairly unstable molecule that decomposes in the intercellular spaces to release free oxygen and hemoglobin.’
      • ‘Davy had developed a technique by which unusually stable compounds could be decomposed into their constituent elements.’
      break up, break apart, fall apart, fragment, disintegrate, crumble, dissolve
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    2. 1.2Mathematics with object Express (a number or function) as a combination of simpler components.
      ‘in how many ways can one decompose a number as a sum of squares?’
      • ‘The DWT decomposes a function into its wavelet coefficients.’
      • ‘This can be decomposed into the two functions, each of which we know how to differentiate.’
      • ‘Because they cannot be decomposed any further du Sautoy calls them the atoms of arithmetic.’
      • ‘If you're not familiar with the Fourier transform, its purpose is to decompose a function into sinusoidal basis functions.’
      • ‘All positive whole numbers are either primes or they can be uniquely decomposed into a product of primes.’


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