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’
    with object ‘dead plant matter can be completely decomposed by microorganisms’
    • ‘Peatlands consist of layer upon layer of partially decomposed plant material.’
    • ‘In addition to improving soil structure, decomposing compost will slowly release plant nutrients.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As the mulch decomposes in the summer heat, add more to maintain optimal mulch depth.’
    • ‘As these mulches slowly decompose, they provide organic matter which helps keep the soil loose.’
    • ‘Some 17 days passed before her badly decomposed body was found, 20 miles away.’
    • ‘In those few hours the body had began to already decompose.’
    • ‘Most of the hotel refuse consists of leftover food, which rapidly decomposes.’
    • ‘‘When a body decomposes in water, it becomes completely disfigured,’ he continues.’
    • ‘Submerged leaves decompose quickly and can cause scummy bacteria to form.’
    • ‘Vets said some bacteria could still spread after the body decomposes and could infect human beings as well as animals.’
    • ‘If there are badly decomposed or skeletal remains, we might be able to do facial reconstruction.’
    • ‘The body begins to decompose soon after it is buried.’
    • ‘‘When buried,’ says Emily, ‘an animal's body decomposes at a very slow rate - it can take up to 30 years.’’
    • ‘The days when organic food conjured up images of overpriced vegetables decomposing before the eyes are well and truly over.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Leaves decompose quickly, which can turn water murky and even make it smelly.’
    • ‘The remains were so badly decomposed, scientists were unable to establish a cause of death, and murder was not ruled out.’
    • ‘The badly decomposed body of a man has been found in a reservoir at Ogden.’
    • ‘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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Davy had developed a technique by which unusually stable compounds could be decomposed into their constituent elements.’
      • ‘Benzoyl peroxide rapidly decomposes into benzoic acid and hydrogen peroxide and is also safe.’
      • ‘When heated, it decomposes into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide gas.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘All dioxins are very stable and unlike most other chemicals do not quickly decompose or break down in the environment.’
      • ‘This water vapor can undergo a chemical change if enough additional heat is added, when it decomposes into oxygen gas and hydrogen gas.’
      • ‘In acidic mixtures, such as many soft drinks, sucrose will chemically decompose over a period of time.’
      • ‘Alcohol evaporates or is decomposed, so fermentation cannot be proven directly.’
      • ‘As hydrogen peroxide decomposes to oxygen and water, the resulting rate of the evolution of oxygen and I 2 vary periodically.’
      • ‘For this reason, demolition experts prefer to use explosive chemicals that contain molecules that readily decompose to form gases.’
      • ‘When light strikes the film the silver halide decomposes to give silver.’
      • ‘Regardless of whether it concerns volatile or solid substances, chemical explosives decompose into gas on detonation.’
      • ‘Without catalysis, hydrogen peroxide decomposes slowly over time to form water and oxygen 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.’
      • ‘Formic acid decomposes slowly at room temperature into carbon monoxide and Water.’
      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?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Because they cannot be decomposed any further du Sautoy calls them the atoms of arithmetic.’
      • ‘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.’


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