The Council's ethnic and religious breakdown included 13 Shias, five Sunnis, five Kurds (also Sunnis), one Turkmen and an Assyrian.

It's from here on Wikipedia.

update: I was wondering why "break" and "down" have anything to do with "division into categories". Or I just can't consider "breakdown" as "break" and "down" separately?


  • 1
    What dictionaries did you look the word up in? Which definition do you think might be correct? What specifically do you not understand about a definition or definitions of breakdown with regard to its use in this sentence?
    – user6951
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 10:38
  • 1
    To piggyback on what @δοῦλος is saying, we don't mind questions where you ask about the meaning of a word. However, we expect that you do some research first (dictionaries, Google, etc.), and that you also share what you found. More is explained here, particularly under the part that says, "Show your research."
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 10:54
  • @δοῦλος I've edited the question. Sorry for asking a stupid question. Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 11:19
  • 1
    @AwQiruiGuo It's not that the original question was stupid; it's more that it was beyond the purpose of this site. In order to keep it filled with active discussion of ELL topics, straightforward questions that are answerable via a dictionary aren't desirable. Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 23:30

1 Answer 1


A compound word like breakdown almost always has roots based in the two words from which it was made, but over time words gain additional meanings and can change quite dramatically. The roots of this one are still fairly straightforward though, and we still use the words break down as the verb form of the noun breakdown.

Breakdown once meant a collapse, as in a building breaking apart and falling down. It later took on the meaning of intentionally dismantling an object. Boy Scouts might break down their tents as part of striking camp. Taking something apart often involves categorizing the parts. We still say that a cook breaks down a chicken or a fish when he or she cuts it into parts, for instance.

In much the same way, a figurative breakdown, as in your quotation, is an analysis that splits an object into its parts.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .