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 micro-organisms’
    • ‘The remains were so badly decomposed, scientists were unable to establish a cause of death, and murder was not ruled out.’
    • ‘Peatlands consist of layer upon layer of partially decomposed plant material.’
    • ‘‘When buried,’ says Emily, ‘an animal's body decomposes at a very slow rate - it can take up to 30 years.’’
    • ‘As these mulches slowly decompose, they provide organic matter which helps keep the soil loose.’
    • ‘If there are badly decomposed or skeletal remains, we might be able to do facial reconstruction.’
    • ‘In addition to improving soil structure, decomposing compost will slowly release plant nutrients.’
    • ‘Leaves decompose quickly, which can turn water murky and even make it smelly.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Submerged leaves decompose quickly and can cause scummy bacteria to form.’
    • ‘‘When a body decomposes in water, it becomes completely disfigured,’ he continues.’
    • ‘Most of the hotel refuse consists of leftover food, which rapidly decomposes.’
    • ‘The body begins to decompose soon after it is buried.’
    • ‘As the mulch decomposes in the summer heat, add more to maintain optimal mulch depth.’
    • ‘The badly decomposed body of a man has been found in a reservoir at Ogden.’
    • ‘The days when organic food conjured up images of overpriced vegetables decomposing before the eyes are well and truly over.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Vets said some bacteria could still spread after the body decomposes and could infect human beings as well as animals.’
    • ‘In those few hours the body had began to already decompose.’
    • ‘Some 17 days passed before her badly decomposed body was found, 20 miles away.’
    • ‘It takes several weeks or longer, depending upon the size, for the body to completely decompose.’
    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’
      • ‘When heated, it decomposes into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide gas.’
      • ‘As hydrogen peroxide decomposes to oxygen and water, the resulting rate of the evolution of oxygen and I 2 vary periodically.’
      • ‘Davy had developed a technique by which unusually stable compounds could be decomposed into their constituent elements.’
      • ‘Regardless of whether it concerns volatile or solid substances, chemical explosives decompose into gas on detonation.’
      • ‘This water vapor can undergo a chemical change if enough additional heat is added, when it decomposes into oxygen gas and hydrogen gas.’
      • ‘Thus, two molecules of water have been decomposed into two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen.’
      • ‘Alcohol evaporates or is decomposed, so fermentation cannot be proven directly.’
      • ‘Glyphosate has little residual activity and is rapidly decomposed to organic components by microorganisms in the soil.’
      • ‘Benzoyl peroxide rapidly decomposes into benzoic acid and hydrogen peroxide and is also safe.’
      • ‘In acidic mixtures, such as many soft drinks, sucrose will chemically decompose over a period of time.’
      • ‘Formic acid decomposes slowly at room temperature into carbon monoxide and Water.’
      • ‘When light strikes the film the silver halide decomposes to give silver.’
      • ‘For this reason, demolition experts prefer to use explosive chemicals that contain molecules that readily decompose to form gases.’
      • ‘Oxyhemoglobin is a fairly unstable molecule that decomposes in the intercellular spaces to release free oxygen and hemoglobin.’
      • ‘All dioxins are very stable and unlike most other chemicals do not quickly decompose or break down in the environment.’
      • ‘Without catalysis, hydrogen peroxide decomposes slowly over time to form water and oxygen gas.’
      • ‘Nitriles can be decomposed by acids or alkalis to give the corresponding carboxylic acid or they can be reduced to give primary amines.’
      • ‘Nitric acid can be thermally decomposed to give water, nitrogen dioxide, and oxygen.’
      • ‘The most significant user is the glass industry, which uses sodium carbonate to decompose silicates for glass making.’
      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?’
      • ‘All positive whole numbers are either primes or they can be uniquely decomposed into a product of primes.’
      • ‘Because they cannot be decomposed any further du Sautoy calls them the atoms of arithmetic.’
      • ‘This can be decomposed into the two functions, each of which we know how to differentiate.’
      • ‘If you're not familiar with the Fourier transform, its purpose is to decompose a function into sinusoidal basis functions.’
      • ‘The DWT decomposes a function into its wavelet coefficients.’


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