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.

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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 months, their coalition pushed for more pop-up testing clinics in the 93033 and 93030 ZIP Codes, which comprise 29% of Ventura County’s coronavirus cases. Los Angeles Times, "Column: What Oxnard can teach L.A. and the rest of California about COVID-19," 24 Feb. 2021 These invertebrates, which comprise thousands of different species within the family Scarabaeidae, feed on other animals’ feces. Michael Price, Science | AAAS, "Humble dung beetles may be ideal DNA detectors for animal surveys," 19 Feb. 2021 According to Bowser’s violence prevention presentation, 151 city blocks represent about 2% of all the blocks in the district but comprise 41% of violent offenses with shots fired. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Space Bubbles, mask ballet, snow trek: News from around our 50 states," 18 Feb. 2021 But her decrying of Biden's pause on oil and gas drilling on federal lands, which comprise 55% of the district, has been embraced by voters who depend on the industry. James Anderson And Nicholas Riccardi, Star Tribune, "A fluke or the future? Boebert shakes up Colorado district," 6 Feb. 2021 Skoda said the county is still finalizing plans with hospitals, which comprise at least some of the remaining seven providers and eight locations. Robin Goist, cleveland, "Summit County to receive 5,750 coronavirus vaccines for people 80+ on Jan. 19 or 20; no countywide registration database," 13 Jan. 2021 Each player and staff member is allowed four tickets for ‘friends and family,’ which will comprise the entire crowd. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, "As college basketball remains unpredictable, the Utah-BYU matchup never wavered," 11 Dec. 2020 Claudine Reid, a former adviser to the UK government on social enterprise, will chair the committee, which will also comprise other Black founders and business owners. Hanna Ziady, CNN, "Black employees earn 20% less at Britain's biggest bank. It's trying to fix that," 11 Dec. 2020 The rules come into effect on Dec. 1, according to Gulf News, and are the latest in a series of measures aimed at liberalizing business activity in the UAE, where foreigners comprise more than 80% of the population. Zainab Fattah,, "UAE Allows Full Foreign Ownership of Firms to Boost Economy," 23 Nov. 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 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 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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