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 As of January 13, 2021, more than 2 million kids have caught Covid-19, and children comprise 10.8 percent of the nation’s caseload. Megan Molteni, Wired, "Everything We Know Now About Schools, Kids, and Covid-19," 15 Jan. 2021 The layoffs comprise roughly 11% of Dropbox's workforce. Tyler Van Dyke, Washington Examiner, "Cloud storage firm Dropbox to lay off 315 employees," 13 Jan. 2021 The Climate Change Flyers comprise nine essays that question the reliability of computer models, the human-induced causes of climate change, links between climate change and hurricanes and other topics. Author: Andrew Freedman, Jason Samenow, Anchorage Daily News, "White House reassigns officials who published papers questioning seriousness of climate change," 12 Jan. 2021 Those counties comprise a majority of the state’s population, including many lower-income residents who may live in crowded areas or work in jobs that place them in close contact with customers or other employees, increasing their risk of infection. John Antczak, ajc, "California virus deaths top 30,000 after deadliest weekend," 11 Jan. 2021 The failures of conservative boycotts shouldn’t put activists off—unlike the right, left-leaning Americans comprise the majority of the country’s consumers and, more critically, the majority of its workforce. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "The Corporations Funding the End of Democracy," 6 Jan. 2021 Its primary customers are local and state government agencies, and those contracts with other governments comprise 95% of the environmental service’s budget. Pamela Wood,, "State lawmakers seek to reform Maryland Environmental Service after revelations of lavish spending," 30 Dec. 2020 Black residents comprise a plurality on the West Bank’s electorate right now and will soon have a majority. Clancy Dubos,, "Clancy DuBos: The Top 10 Political Stories of 2020," 28 Dec. 2020 Those three countries comprise about 90 percent of all TPS holders. Dianne Solis, Dallas News, "Is a permanent solution coming at last for Salvadoran immigrants and others with temporary work permits?," 27 Dec. 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

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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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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