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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Synonyms for comprise


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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 Asians comprise a significant portion of immigrants in the US but they are often overlooked in the debate over immigration reform. Nicole Chavez And Priya Krishnakumar, CNN, "We speak about Asian Americans as a single block. Here's how incredibly complex they are," 6 May 2021 White people made up just under 78% of those receiving this vaccine and comprise 86% of the state’s population. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Minaret vaccination, Rushmore fight, enrollment drops: News from around our 50 states," 4 May 2021 Gen-Z superstars Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Naomi Osaka, and Amanda Gorman will serve as co-chairs, while Tom Ford, Adam Mosseri, and Anna Wintour comprise the evening’s honorary chairs. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "The Met Gala Returns! Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Naomi Osaka, and Amanda Gorman Will Co-chair the Ultimate Tribute to American Style," 3 May 2021 White people made up just under 78% of those receiving this vaccine and comprise 86% of the state’s population. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, "1,942,376 Indiana residents now fully vaccinated; 1 new COVID-19 death reported," 3 May 2021 Black and Latinx students now comprise 15 percent of the student body, Hogle said, and more students are rising to eligibility for admission through the Musical Pathway Fellowship. Zachary Lewis, cleveland, "Cleveland Institute of Music eyes transformation at start of its second century," 22 Apr. 2021 Zebra consumers comprise men and women equally, and range in age from 18-70, Napolitano said. Georgann Yara, The Arizona Republic, "This Phoenix e-bike company wants to eliminate 100 million car rides in 5 years," 22 Apr. 2021 Spring Stakes Spectacular, a collection of seven stakes worth $750,000 in purses originally scheduled for Laurel Park’s spring meet, will help comprise Pimlico’s opening Saturday program. Baltimore Sun Staff,, "Racing returns to Pimlico Race Course on Thursday," 21 Apr. 2021 African Americans comprise 18% of the city’s population; 25% of Hoover students are Black. Roy S. Johnson |, al, "Hoover city council names new BOE member and makes a historic hire," 20 Apr. 2021

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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Statistics for comprise

Last Updated

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for comprise



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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