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[melt-doun] /ˈmɛltˌdaʊn/
the melting of a significant portion of a nuclear-reactor core due to inadequate cooling of the fuel elements, a condition that could lead to the escape of radiation.
a quickly developing breakdown or collapse: a bond-market meltdown;
the meltdown of a marriage.
Informal. a sudden loss of control over one’s feelings or behavior:
My toddler had a meltdown when I tried to leave the house.
Origin of meltdown
First recorded in 1960-65; noun use of verb phrase melt down Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for meltdown


(in a nuclear reactor) the melting of the fuel rods as a result of a defect in the cooling system, with the possible escape of radiation into the environment
(informal) a sudden disastrous failure with potential for widespread harm, as a stock-exchange crash
(informal) the process or state of irreversible breakdown or decline: the community is slowly going into meltdown
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for meltdown

by 1937 in the ice-cream industry; by 1956 in reference to a nuclear reactor, from verbal phrase, from melt (v.) + down (adv.). Metaphoric extension since 1979.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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meltdown in Science
Severe overheating of a nuclear reactor core, resulting in melting of the core and escape of radiation.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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meltdown in Culture

meltdown definition

The most serious accident that can occur at a nuclear reactor. In a meltdown, the radioactive material in the reactor becomes very hot, melting some or all of the fuel in the reactor. A meltdown may or may not be followed by the release of radioactive material to the environment. A partial meltdown, with very little external radiation, occurred at Three Mile Island in 1979; a complete meltdown happened at Chernobyl in 1986.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for meltdown



A disaster: They are facing a credibility meltdown/The Glenn campaign has achieved almost total meltdown

[1970s+; fr the nuclear power-plant disaster in which the core of radioactive material melts down into the earth below, the term found by 1963]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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