I am writing something in a blog and I want to write this sentence

Its a very hard thing to follow a path you believe in and are passionate about when everything around you starts to _________ and every tom dick and harry you know takes the other lucrative path

I want to fill up the blank with something that means "unravel in the worst possible way", i.e. things starting to crumble around you, but you are alone and strongwilled on that path. Any such words/phrases in English? I don't want to just use the word crumble - it's too negative and it stands out too much. Unravel in a bad way softens the blow a little bit, but just unravel on its own is too subtle.

  • 8
    but unravel isn't subtle. It's the word I would expect to fill in the blank and wouldn't need any additional adjective to understand falling apart being bad.
    – SrJoven
    Jan 15, 2015 at 16:31
  • 2
    Yeah, the trouble is, you're trying to say two different things with one word. You speak of faith and passion, but then you're telling us that the problem is: Tom, Dick, and Harry are making more money than you. Doesn't matter which word you pick - it's not a cohesive statement.
    – Oldbag
    Jan 15, 2015 at 21:40
  • taking your title a bit too literally. "Capsize" is one possibility.
    – genisage
    Jan 15, 2015 at 23:35

10 Answers 10


I like the word disintegrate for your sentence. (Although I don't know that it's any less "negative" than crumble.)

Wordnick offers these definitions:

To become reduced to components, fragments, or particles

To undo the integrity of, break into parts

To separate into component parts; reduce to fragments; break up or destroy the cohesion of

(Note: Be careful about a run-on sentence.)

  • I really like disintegrate :) Jan 15, 2015 at 16:23

You could follow Yeats and go with "fall apart":

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

  • 1
    @Slartibartfast, no problem. :) Your question also made my think of the first verse of Kipling's "If": "If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, / If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, / But make allowance for their doubting too; "
    – A E
    Jan 15, 2015 at 16:37
  • 2
    In a similar vein, "come undone"
    – pimlottc
    Jan 15, 2015 at 18:59
  • 3
    @AE, or the bastardised version: "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then you do not fully understand the severity of the situation" ;)
    – Moo-Juice
    Jan 15, 2015 at 19:33



Though there are definitely negative connotations here. Alternatively, just stick with Unravel. It's succinct, and less negative than alternatives.

  • Yeah I considered that, but Unravel is probably too subtle on its own Jan 15, 2015 at 16:24



Go to shit, but that might be too negative too ;)

The soul of wit is brevity. You might shorten your sentiment a bit, maybe something like:

The road of passion is brutal when things fall apart--while every tom, dick and harry ride the road to wealth.


This may also be too negative for your taste, but consider implode

to break down or fall apart from within : self-destruct Merriam-Webster


Two good phrases for what you describe:

when everything around you starts to [come undone] ...


when everything around you starts to [go to pieces] ...


Disassemble - which, although it has a strong mechanical or technical sense to it, might be appropriate for a situation where one has worked long and hard (and passionately) to achieve a goal, construct an environment, or build a complex fragile alliance among individuals, that unexpectedly begins to disassemble - in a manner (and often at a fast rate/speed) which one cannot stop - but one can only helplessly - watch. And there is usually no one remaining to "mourn" when the dust finally settles except the one who invested the most.


Another option could be discombobulate:

To throw into a state of confusion; to befuddle or perplex.

  • I'm not sure that 'things' (circumstances) can be discombobulated - my impression is that it's only people who can be. If things do fall apart then of course that could cause people to be discombobulated.
    – A E
    Jan 16, 2015 at 9:41


v. (transitive), to deprive (a corporate body) of corporation

"Unbind your mind, there is no time, boin-n-n-n-n-n-g, to lick your stamps, and paste them in, discorporate, and we’ll begin" - Frank Zappa


"recalcitrate" from Latin recalcitratus.


: to kick back


: to protest or resist vigorously : show stubborn opposition

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage. We're looking for answers with more detail. Can you edit your post to explain how it answers the question, and add references to substantiate it?
    – user63230
    Jan 15, 2015 at 23:18

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.