9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[dee-kuh m-pohz] /ˌdi kəmˈpoʊz/
verb (used with object), decomposed, decomposing.
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), decomposed, decomposing.
to rot; putrefy:
The egg began to decompose after a day in the sun.
Origin of decompose
1745-55; < French décomposer, equivalent to dé- dis-1 + composer to compose
Related forms
decomposable, adjective
decomposability, noun
undecomposable, adjective
1. distill, fractionate, analyze. 2. See decay. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for decompose
  • Bacteria and other organisms evolved to decompose, or break down, dead animals and plants.
  • One of the organic pollutants in sewage sludge does not decompose when composted, a study has found.
  • It takes longer for stuff to decompose but it keeps critters out and gets the job done.
  • Reservoirs often flood forests, which give off methane and other greenhouse gases as they decompose.
  • Tropical peatlands consist of layer upon layer of forest debris too wet to decompose.
  • Microbes decompose them and new plants use the same nutrients to grow again.
  • Many of the bodies themselves vanished when they were reburied or left to decompose.
  • Look how long it takes a tree to decompose lying on the ground.
  • What little there is will decompose quickly and act as a fertilizer.
  • As bacteria decompose the dead material, oxygen is depleted from bottom waters.
British Dictionary definitions for decompose


to break down (organic matter) or (of organic matter) to be broken down physically and chemically by bacterial or fungal action; rot
(chem) to break down or cause to break down into simpler chemical compounds
to break up or separate into constituent parts
(transitive) (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
Derived Forms
decomposable, adjective
decomposability, noun
decomposition (ˌdiːkɒmpəˈzɪʃən) noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for decompose

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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