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

Tempo The pace of a composition’s performance, not tied to individual notes. Jonathon Keats, Discover Magazine, "Science of Music," 15 June 2018 An isotope is a variety of an element with the same chemical structure but a different internal composition. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Uranium enrichment will be a key point in talks with North Korea. Here’s what it is.," 11 June 2018 Usually, that’s what line does, structuring a composition by demarcating the contours of objects and enabling us to distinguish solid forms from the empty space around them. David Pagel,, "Laurie Nye paints her way to Venus. You can join the ride," 16 May 2018 But the thin storyline takes a back seat to the rich language on display; like many a jazz composition, Paradise Blue doesn't cohere very well, but there are some dazzling solos. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Paradise Blue': Theater Review," 15 May 2018 Too many plants jammed into a composition that looks fabulous in May can lead to an overgrown jungle by August. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, "Why your 'great garden intentions' should center around succulents," 11 May 2018 Robby Müller, the Dutch cinematographer whose inventive use of lighting and artful approach to composition were consistent elements of films by directors like Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch, died on July 3 at his home in Amsterdam. Richard Sandomir,, "Robby Müller, inventive cinematographer, dies at 78," 13 July 2018 Enter Jonathan Middleton, chair of the Department of Music and professor of theory and composition at Eastern Washington University. Kevin Davenport, idahostatesman, "Symphony of the salmon: How scientists are learning by putting fish migration to music," 9 July 2018 In the meantime, at least two council members registered concerns about the composition of a CDC board, where three representatives from the city are proposed. Thomas Jewell,, "Cleveland Heights council discusses new Community Development Corp.," 27 Mar. 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

16 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for composition

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

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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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Comments on composition

What made you want to look up composition? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one that holds something together

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