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break down - definition and synonyms


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90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.



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phrasal verb
Word Forms
present tense
I/you/we/theybreak down
he/she/itbreaks down
present participlebreaking down
past tensebroke down
past participlebroken down
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  1. 1
    [intransitive] if a machine or vehicle breaks down, it stops working
    The car broke down just outside Winchester.
  2. 2
    [transitive] to divide something such as a total amount into separate parts
    The amount doesn’t seem quite so bad when you break it down into monthly payments.
    1. a.
      [intransitive/transitive] if a substance breaks down or is broken down into parts, it separates into the parts that it is made up of
      The substance is easily broken down by bacteria.
  3. 4
    [intransitive] to start crying, especially in public
    People broke down and wept when they heard the news.
  4. 5
    [transitive] to hit something such as a door or wall very hard so that it falls down
    Firefighters had to break down the door to get into the flat.
    Synonyms and related words
  5. 6
    [transitive] to remove a difficulty that prevents something from happening
    The aim of the agreement is to break down barriers to trade.
See also main entry: break


a course of study which is much shorter than a university course and focuses on the skills you need for a job, especially computer-related skills

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an ancient Roman system of underfloor heating, used to heat houses with hot air; from the Latin 'hypocaustum'

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