com·​prise | \ kəm-ˈprīz How to pronounce comprise (audio) \
comprised; comprising

Definition of comprise

transitive verb

1 : to be made up of The factory was to be a vast installation, comprising fifty buildings.— Jane Jacobs The play comprises three acts.
2 : compose, constitute … a misconception as to what comprises a literary generation.— William Styron … about 8 percent of our military forces are comprised of women.— Jimmy Carter
3 : to include especially within a particular scope … civilization as Lenin used the term would then certainly have comprised the changes that are now associated in our minds with "developed" rather than "developing" states.The Times Literary Supplement (London)

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Comprise vs. Compose: Usage Guide

Although it has been in use since the late 18th century, sense 2 is still attacked as wrong. Why it has been singled out is not clear, but until comparatively recent times it was found chiefly in scientific or technical writing rather than belles lettres. Our current evidence shows a slight shift in usage: sense 2 is somewhat more frequent in recent literary use than the earlier senses. You should be aware, however, that if you use sense 2 you may be subject to criticism for doing so, and you may want to choose a safer synonym such as compose or make up.

Did You Know?

Comprise has undergone a substantial shift in usage since first appearing in English in the 15th century. For many years usage commentators insisted that the usage of comprise meaning "to be made up of" (as shown in our first example) was correct and comprise meaning "to make up," as in our second example and in phrases like "the players who comprise the team," was not. (This disputed use is often used in passive constructions such as, "The album is comprised of ten classic songs.") Until relatively recently, this less-favored sense appeared mostly in scientific writing, but current evidence shows that it is now somewhat more common in general use than the word's other meanings.

Examples of comprise in a Sentence

Each army division comprised 4,500 troops. The play comprises three acts.
Recent Examples on the Web The white hearse was in the back of a funeral procession comprised of around 20 or so luxury vehicles and SUVs and one limousine. Matt Wake |, al, "What it was like being at Little Richard’s funeral," 21 May 2020 Coral branches are actually comprised of compact colonies that include thousands of tiny animals called polyps. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Glowing coral reefs are striving to recover from bleaching, study says," 21 May 2020 According to information provided by SJRA, the GRP contract included periodic rate increases, which would be reviewed and approved by a committee comprised of GRP participants prior to adoption by SJRA’s board. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "Woodlands Water balks at rate bump for Groundwater Reduction Plan from San Jacinto River Authority," 19 May 2020 Sometimes a jury — especially a jury comprised of a lot of parents — needs to see that. Dalton Ross,, "Survivor: Winners at War finale recap: Dominance is rewarded," 14 May 2020 The district has created a re-entry plan comprised of 15 priority objectives that include transportation, food, learning, health issues and safety. Brandi Addison, Dallas News, "Frisco ISD board votes to partially reopen June 8, discusses plans for this fall," 13 May 2020 But this is manageable give the reality that Palestinians are highly unlikely to join talks on a state comprised of only 30% of the West Bank. Aaron David Miller, Time, "To Annex or Not to Annex: What Will Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Do Next?," 13 May 2020 Emirates, by contrast, has a fleet of more than 250 planes solely comprised of A380s and Boeing 777s. Benedikt Kammel,, "Qatar Airways Clings to Passenger Schedule While Rivals Idle Fleets," 10 May 2020 Colicchio is the proprietor of Crafted Hospitality, a restaurant group comprised of Craft, a longtime staple of Manhattan fine dining, and other establishments in New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, all of which are currently closed. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, "Tom Colicchio on What It Will Take for Restaurants to Survive," 6 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'comprise.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of comprise

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for comprise

Middle English, from Anglo-French compris, past participle of comprendre, from Latin comprehendere — see comprehend

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Time Traveler for comprise

Time Traveler

The first known use of comprise was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for comprise


How to pronounce comprise (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of comprise

: to be made up of (something) : to include or consist of (something)
: to make up or form (something)


com·​prise | \ kəm-ˈprīz How to pronounce comprise (audio) \
comprised; comprising

Kids Definition of comprise

1 : to be made up of : consist of The play comprises three acts.
2 : form entry 2 sense 3 Nine players comprise a baseball team.

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