See more synonyms for breakdown on
  1. a breaking down, wearing out, or sudden loss of ability to function efficiently, as of a machine.
  2. a loss of mental or physical health; collapse.Compare nervous breakdown.
  3. an analysis or classification of something; division into parts, categories, processes, etc.
  4. Chemistry.
    1. decomposition.
    2. analysis(def 6).
  5. Electricity. an electric discharge passing through faulty insulation or other material used to separate circuits or passing between electrodes in a vacuum or gas-filled tube.
  6. a noisy, lively folk dance.

Origin of breakdown

First recorded in 1825–35; noun use of verb phrase break down Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Contemporary Examples of breakdown

Historical Examples of breakdown

Word Origin and History for breakdown

"a collapse," 1832, from break (v.) + down (adv.). The verbal phrase is attested from late 14c. The noun, specifically of machinery, is from 1838; meaning "an analysis in detail" is from 1936. Nervous breakdown is from 1905.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

breakdown in Medicine


  1. The act or process of failing to function or continue.
  2. A typically sudden collapse in physical or mental health.
  3. Disintegration or decomposition into parts or elements.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.