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verb (used with object), de·com·posed, de·com·pos·ing.
  1. to separate or resolve into constituent parts or elements; disintegrate: The bacteria decomposed the milk into its solid and liquid elements.
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verb (used without object), de·com·posed, de·com·pos·ing.
  1. to rot; putrefy: The egg began to decompose after a day in the sun.
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Origin of decompose

1745–55; < French décomposer, equivalent to dé- dis-1 + composer to compose
Related formsde·com·pos·a·ble, adjectivede·com·pos·a·bil·i·ty, nounun·de·com·pos·a·ble, adjective

Synonyms for decompose

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Synonym study

2. See decay.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for decompose

disintegrate, decay, molder, dissolve, fester, taint, crumble, turn, spoil, putrefy, anatomize, resolve, separate, dissect, distill, atomize, decompound

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British Dictionary definitions for decompose


  1. to break down (organic matter) or (of organic matter) to be broken down physically and chemically by bacterial or fungal action; rot
  2. chem to break down or cause to break down into simpler chemical compounds
  3. to break up or separate into constituent parts
  4. (tr) maths to express in terms of a number of independent simpler components, as a set as a canonical union of disjoint subsets, or a vector into orthogonal components
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Derived Formsdecomposable, adjectivedecomposability, noundecomposition (ˌdiːkɒmpəˈzɪʃən), noun
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

Word Origin and History for decompose


1750s, "to separate into components," from de- "opposite of" + compose. Sense of "putrefy" is first recorded 1777. Related: Decomposed; decomposing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper