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)

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, grammarians insisted that the usage of comprise meaning "to be made up of," as in phrases like "a team comprising nine players," was correct, and that comprise meaning "to make up," as in phrases like "the nine players who comprise the team," was not. This disputed use is most common in the passive construction "to be comprised of," as in "a team comprised of nine players." 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 Greg Bassuk, chief executive of AXS Investments, an asset-manager that focuses on alternative investments, says Bitcoin should comprise a portion of an investor’s portfolio. Emily Graffeo, Fortune, 7 Jan. 2022 Still, nonalcoholic beverages make up one-third of the overall revenue (and might hit 50% this month); two consecutive Fridays saw the drinks comprise more than half of the cafe’s sales. Kristin Scharkey, Sunset Magazine, 28 Dec. 2021 Eddir, who is from Jerusalem, said many Afghan refugees comprise the store’s customer base, and most don’t speak English or Arabic. Cameron Fields, cleveland, 24 Dec. 2021 For the Nasdaq, where tech names comprise about half the index, all of its biggest names—including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Tesla—fell. Anna Hirtenstein, WSJ, 9 Dec. 2021 The plan does not have universal support in New Zealand, where daily smokers comprise about 9.4 percent of the adult population. Washington Post, 9 Dec. 2021 The 2020 census showed that non-Latino white Texans now comprise less than 40 percent of the state’s population, the Justice Department lawsuit said. New York Times, 6 Dec. 2021 The trains are the newest in service and the 748 cars comprise about 60% of the fleet. Ashraf Khalil, ajc, 22 Nov. 2021 Women disproportionately shoulder caregiving responsibilities at home, and yet also comprise the majority of frontline health care workers. Fatima Goss Graves, CNN, 20 Nov. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near comprise



comprised of

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Last Updated

10 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.

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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.

More from Merriam-Webster on comprise

Nglish: Translation of comprise for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of comprise for Arabic Speakers


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