• synonyms


[dee-kom-puh-zish-uh n]
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  1. the act or process of decomposing.
  2. the state of being decomposed; decay.
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Origin of decomposition

1650–60; probably < French décomposition, derivative of décomposer to decompose; see composition
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Word Origin and History for decomposition


1762, from de- + composition. An earlier word in the same form meant "further compounding of already composite things" (1650s).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

decomposition in Medicine


  1. The act or result of decomposing; disintegration.
  2. Separation into constituents by chemical reaction.
  3. The breakdown or decay of organic materials; lysis.
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Related formsde•com′po•sition•al adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

decomposition in Science


  1. The separation of a substance into simpler substances or basic elements. Decomposition can be brought about by exposure to heat, light, or chemical or biological activity.
  2. The process of breaking down organic material, such as dead plant or animal tissue, into smaller molecules that are available for use by the organisms of an ecosystem. Decomposition is carried on by bacteria, fungi, protists, worms, and certain other organisms. See more at detritivore.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.