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.

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.


  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

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

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