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 For its probe, the Infosys board audit committee relied on an investigative team comprised of an independent legal counsel and the accounting and consulting firm PwC, also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Nilekani said. Alexandria Burris, Indianapolis Star, "Infosys says investigation found no evidence supporting whistleblower allegations," 30 Jan. 2020 Huntsville Symphony Orchestra is comprised of musicians ranging in ages from around 23 to 63, hailing from as far away as California. Matt Wake |, al, "‘The Genius of John Williams,’ ‘Star Wars’ music composer," 28 Jan. 2020 There is currently a six-team district in 5A Division I that is comprised of only El Paso schools. Greg Riddle, Dallas News, "Five 5A realignment football storylines to keep an eye on: is relief for Dallas ISD schools on the way?," 27 Jan. 2020 The band is comprised of many local talents with jazz, pop, and blues backgrounds. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc's Morning Line: Big night for UC, Xavier basketball with six weeks left to audition," 23 Jan. 2020 Which two returnees were convinced the season would not just be comprised of 20 winners? Dalton Ross,, "Survivor: Winners at War cast makes bold predictions for season 40," 23 Jan. 2020 His family had been worried after news of the avalanche because his team was also comprised of four South Korean trekkers and three Nepali guides. Washington Post, "Nepal rescuers search for 7 as avalanche hits hiking trail," 20 Jan. 2020 With its bevy of single-family homes, District One, which is primarily comprised of the Richmond District, will likely be a pressure point in San Francisco’s roiling housing debate. Dominic Fracassa,, "Longtime local political aide to run for SF Richmond District’s supervisor seat," 17 Jan. 2020 The Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities is comprised of seven volunteer members who are appointed by either the Medina County commissioners or the Medina County probate judge. Sam Boyer, cleveland, "Weather played crucial role in building progress: Whit & Whimsey," 17 Jan. 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

5 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 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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