com·po·si·tion | \ ˌkäm-pə-ˈzi-shən \

Definition of composition 

1a : the act or process of composing specifically : arrangement into specific proportion or relation and especially into artistic form the painting's unique composition

b(1) : the arrangement of type for printing hand composition

(2) : the production of type or typographic characters (as in photocomposition) arranged for printing

2a : the manner in which something is composed

b : general makeup the changing ethnic composition of the city's population

c : the qualitative and quantitative makeup of a chemical compound the chemical composition of a polymer

3 : mutual settlement or agreement The two parties came to a composition.

4 : a product of mixing or combining various elements or ingredients a composition of rubber and cork

5 : an intellectual creation: such as

a : a piece of writing especially : a school exercise in the form of a brief essay wrote a composition on the role of the police in our society

b : a written piece of music especially of considerable size and complexity Her composition for piano and flute was played at the recital.

6 : the quality or state of being compound

7 : the operation of forming a composite function also : composite function

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Other words from composition

compositional \ˌkäm-pə-ˈzish-nəl, -ˈzi-shə-nᵊl \ adjective
compositionally adverb

Synonyms for composition


article, essay, paper, theme

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Examples of composition in a Sentence

the changing composition of the country's population the composition of a chemical compound The teacher reminded us to hand in our compositions at the end of class.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Cohan often plays excerpts of these and other original compositions, scaled down to the instrumentation at hand, which this time will be a sterling quartet featuring saxophonist John Wojciechowski, bassist James Cammack and drummer George Fludas. Howard Reich,, "From Bernstein to Broadway to Latin jazz," 12 July 2018 Roush and Martin talked for several hours about the team's composition, how much would be invested, what the growth strategy was, and how resources would be allocated. Jason Hoffman,, "Legendary NASCAR team owner Jack Roush hoping to cross Kentucky Speedway off bucket list," 11 July 2018 Instead, obliterating any of the detail and subtlety of the original composition, the wide-eyed St. George was given a fleshy peach face and wide brown eyes, one of which seems to have wandered a bit too far to the right. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Restorationist Botches 16th-Century Spanish Statue of Saint," 28 June 2018 They’ll be subjected to the exact same environmental surroundings as well—gas composition, temperature, lighting to simulate night and day—though on a three-day delay. Megan Molteni, WIRED, "NASA's Astro-Mice Will Test What Space Does to Your Gut," 28 June 2018 The 2018 Gilda Award recipients include Arthur Cartwright (screenwriting, film directing), Aisha Ellis (music composition, performance), Brandyn (Skilz) Burton (dance, choreography) and Salakastar (theatre, performance art). Ryan Patrick Hooper, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit artists receive $25,000 grants from Kresge," 20 June 2018 Some have described the image by Jesco Denzel, an award-winning photographer with many stunning compositions, as a Renaissance painting or the work of a Dutch master. An Xiao Mina, The Atlantic, "That Merkel Photo Is More Like a Meme Than a Renaissance Painting," 11 June 2018 To impress your friends by way of burger composition, call on the ever-popular Japanese wagyu. Natalie B. Compton, GQ, "How to Grill Like a Chef This Summer," 31 May 2018 But students were expected to master math, physical sciences, English literature and composition, and history. Ellie Silverman, Washington Post, "Alexander Orr, co-founder of experimental Hawthorne School, dies at 94," 29 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'composition.' 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 composition

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for composition

Middle English composicioun, from Anglo-French composicion, from Latin composition-, compositio, from componere — see compose

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Last Updated

18 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for composition

The first known use of composition was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for composition



English Language Learners Definition of composition

: the way in which something is put together or arranged : the combination of parts or elements that make up something

: a piece of writing; especially : a brief essay written as a school assignment

: a written piece of music and especially one that is very long or complex


com·po·si·tion | \ ˌkäm-pə-ˈzi-shən \

Kids Definition of composition

1 : a short piece of writing done as a school exercise

2 : the act of writing words or music

3 : the manner in which the parts of a thing are put together : makeup, constitution The president discussed the population's changing composition. Each rock has a slightly different composition.

4 : a literary, musical, or artistic production



Legal Definition of composition 

: an agreement between an insolvent debtor and several creditors whereby partial payment of the debts discharges in full the original obligations — compare accord sense 3, compromise

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