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 Representing a little less than half of that category is hard seltzer — currently being drunk to the tune of 82.5 million cases annually — while the rest is comprised of products like canned cocktails. Esther Mobley,, "For the first time in 25 years, Americans are drinking less wine," 16 Jan. 2020 Translators and interpreters, who are overwhelmingly comprised of women and immigrants, are losing big under California's new gig law (OPINION). Arlene Martinez, USA TODAY, "In California: A race to block new drilling and fracking," 15 Jan. 2020 The new teams are comprised of UA students who were active in the clubs for each game, Meeker said. Robin Goist, cleveland, "University of Akron esports gets new director, adds varsity teams for Fortnite: Battle Royale and Rainbow Six Siege," 19 Dec. 2019 Keens-Douglas was on hand for the celebration, answering questions about her design, which was unbelievably comprised of 100% paper—there were folds, braids, roping, and an accordion-style halo that was meant to evoke the divine. Vogue, "Inside the Star-Studded Miami Dinner Hosted by Vogue and Samsung," 18 Dec. 2019 Hästens has multiple models of their iconic beds, but generally they are comprised of all-natural materials like horse hair, flax, pine, wool, and cotton. Kaitlin Menza, House Beautiful, "This NYC Hotel Now Offers a Room with a $200,000 Mattress," 13 Dec. 2019 The firing comes after an 11-member panel, which is comprised of mostly sheriff’s office employees, reviewed the internal affairs report and voted unanimously to clear Krickovich of all wrongdoing. Eileen Kelley,, "Deputy is fired for slamming student’s head to the ground," 11 Dec. 2019 The board, which is comprised of volunteers appointed by the governor, is expected to discuss the Rose Quarter, though the agenda has not been officially posted. oregonlive, "Harriet Tubman students, youth climate advocates, will rally outside state transportation building Tuesday," 10 Dec. 2019 This is in large part because it is comprised of specialists whose expertise lies not in comprehensive or preventative healthcare, but in the singular management or intervention of disease. Stephanie Mcclellan, Quartz, "Women’s health is about more than gynecology," 9 Dec. 2019

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

22 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 29 January 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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Comments on comprise

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


to assert without proof or before proving

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