break down

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break down

1. verb Of a machine, to malfunction or break altogether. I'm afraid the blender is breaking down. It stopped working again today. She didn't come to the party because her car broke down on the way here.
2. verb To fail or cease. Negotiations have broken down again, and I'm starting to worry that we'll never reach an agreement for a new contract.
3. verb To destroy a physical structure. In this usage, a noun can be used between "break" and "down." I'll break this door down if you don't come out here right now!
4. verb To dismantle a societal obstacle. In this usage, a noun can be used between "break" and "down." We owe a lot to the pioneering activists of earlier eras, who battled prejudice and broke down barriers.
5. verb To lose control of one's emotions, often sadness, especially after trying not to or after an intense buildup. My mother seemed fine this morning, but she completely broke down at the funeral and cried through the whole thing.
6. verb To methodically explain something step by step. In this usage, a noun can be used between "break" and "down." Can you break down the healthcare proposal to me? I'm not very well informed about it.
7. verb To reduce something to its component parts. In this usage, a noun can be used between "break" and "down." If you break down water, it's just hydrogen and oxygen molecules. We need to break down the equipment and pack the truck as quickly as possible once the gig is over.
8. verb To get someone else to do what one wants, often by coercion. In this usage, a noun is typically used between "break" and "down." I'll threaten him if I have to—anything to break him down and get that classified information from him. The prosecutor was able to break down the defendant until he confessed.
9. verb To give in to pressure; to acquiesce. If we keep asking mom and dad to get pizza, eventually they'll break down and order it.
10. noun A state of collapse that is typically induced by some form of stress. In this usage, the phrase is typically written as one word. Once I learned the extent of my injuries, I had a complete breakdown and didn't leave my room for weeks. The coup was followed by a complete societal breakdown. The breakdown of our supply line was caused by an excessive demand.
11. noun A methodical, step-by-step explanation of something. In this usage, the phrase is typically written as one word. Can you give me a breakdown of the healthcare proposal? I'm not very well informed about it.
12. An itemized list. In this usage, the phrase is typically written as one word. We'd like to see a breakdown of the bill so we can see everything we've been charged for.
See also: break, down

break it down

1. To explain something in steps. I know it can be confusing, but once I break it down for you, I think you'll start to get it.
2. Stop! Quit it! Primarily heard in Australia. You guys are making too much noise—break it down!
See also: break, down

break someone down

to force someone to give up and tell secrets or agree to do something. After threats of torture, they broke the spy down. They broke down the agent by threatening violence.
See also: break, down

break something down

 (into something)
1. to reduce a compound or its structure to its components. Heat will break this down into sodium and a few gases. Will heat break down this substance into anything useful? We broke it into little pieces.
2. to reduce a large numerical total to its subparts and explain each one. She broke the total down into its components. Please break down the total into its parts again. I'll break the total down for you.
3. to discuss the details of something by examining its subparts. (See also break something down (for someone).) Let's break this problem down into its parts and deal with each one separately. Breaking down complex problems into their components is almost fun. Let's break this issue down and discuss it.
See also: break, down

break something down

 
1. Lit. to tear something down; to destroy something. They used an ax to break the door down. We broke down the wall with big hammers.
2. Fig. to destroy a social or legal barrier. The court broke a number of legal barriers down this week. They had to break down many social prejudices to manage to succeed.
See also: break, down

break something down

(for someone) Fig. to explain something to someone in simple terms or in an orderly fashion. (Alludes to breaking a complex problem into smaller segments which can be explained more easily. See also break something down (into something).) She doesn't understand. You will have to break it down for her. I can help. This is a confusing question. Let me break down the problem for you.
See also: break, down

break down (and cry)

to surrender to demands or emotions and cry. Max finally broke down and confessed. I was afraid I would break down and cry from the sadness I felt.
See also: break, down

(nervous) breakdown

Fig. a physical and mental collapse brought on by great anxiety over a period of time. After month after month of stress and strain, Sally had a nervous breakdown.

break down

1. Demolish, destroy, either physically or figuratively, as in The carpenters broke down the partition between the bedrooms, or The governor's speeches broke down the teachers' opposition to school reform. [Late 1300s]
2. Separate into constituent parts, analyze. For example, I insisted that they break down the bill into the separate charges for parts and labor, or The chemist was trying to break down the compound's molecules. [Mid-1800s]
3. Stop functioning, cease to be effective or operable, as in The old dishwasher finally broke down. [Mid-1800s]
4. Become distressed or upset; also, have a physical or mental collapse, as in The funeral was too much for her and she broke down in tears, or After seeing all his work come to nothing, he broke down and had to be treated by a psychiatrist . [Late 1800s]
See also: break, down

break down

v.
1. To cause something to collapse, especially by hitting it: The firefighters broke down the door of the burning house. The bulldozer pushed at the old wall and broke it down.
2. To collapse, especially as a result of force or pressure; give way: The door finally broke down after I kept hitting it with a club.
3. To cause someone to stop resisting, especially by force or pressure: The police will break you down and make you talk.
4. To stop resisting; accede: My friends kept pleading with me to go to the beach, so I finally broke down and went along with them.
5. To destroy or remove something, especially something viewed as a problem: This political party hopes to break down the barriers between social classes. Let's identify the obstacles and break them down.
6. To stop functioning: The elevator broke down, so please use the stairs.
7. To be a passenger in a vehicle that stops functioning: We're late because we broke down just outside the city.
8. To fail despite effort; come to a stop: The negotiations between the warring nations broke down, and the fighting continued.
9. To suffer an emotional or mental collapse: The stress of my new job was so high that I eventually broke down and couldn't go to work for days.
10. To separate something into parts; take something apart: When the carnival was over, we broke down all the tents. The workers broke down the equipment and put it into storage.
11. To examine or explain something by looking at its parts; analyze something: Break down your story into its main themes and write each part separately. This problem looks very difficult, but if we break it down, it becomes easy to solve.
12. To be divisible into smaller parts: The population of the city breaks down into three main groups: the poor, the rich, and the middle class.
See also: break, down
References in periodicals archive ?
Lifeboat crews help divers whose boats broke down offthe Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland
The HGV broke down at 3pm and tunnel police and recovery vehicles were on the scene within minutes.
The long, boring journey began when the West Coast Inter-City connection broke down at Preston.
And bosses at the supermarket giant were left red-faced after dozens of motorists broke down after filling up with the fuel.
"I am so relieved I took that advice when my car broke down in the fast lane.
A christian biker who splashed out pounds 11,500 on a Harley Davidson is scared to ride it after it broke down eight times in a year.
Drivers in the Wallasey tunnel were also hit by severe delays after a car broke down shortly before 8am and a recovery vehicle had to be sent out.''
DOZENS of rail passengers were stranded for two hours after a train broke down on the Chester-Holyhead line.
TWO diesel engines sent to rescue a stricken Virgin intercity train BOTH broke down yesterday.
The entire sample broke down in 2 hours, quickening degradation from a half-life of 108 days to 30 minutes.
PASSENGERS faced hold-ups after a bus broke down on a town centre street.
A BUS company has issued an apology after one of their vehicles broke down causing rush hour chaos.
A lifeboat crew came to the rescue after a boat broke down on the Tyne.
During 2005, over a million motorists broke down on a motorway and worries about doing so are well founded as these breakdowns have resulted in more than 94,000 accidents or near misses on the hard shoulder.
For reasons yet unexplained, among the 31 volunteers who routinely consumed less than 2-1/2 ounces of alcohol weekly, stomach enzymes broke down less than one-fourth as much alcohol in women as in men.