verb com·prise \kəm-ˈprīz\

Definition of comprise




  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  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)>

  3. 2 :  to be made up of <The factory was to be a vast installation, comprising fifty buildings. — Jane Jacobs> <The play comprises three acts.>

  4. 3 :  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>

comprise vs. compose

Although it has been in use since the late 18th century, sense 3 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 3 is somewhat more frequent in recent literary use than the earlier senses. You should be aware, however, that if you use sense 3 you may be subject to criticism for doing so, and you may want to choose a safer synonym such as compose or make up.

Examples of comprise in a sentence

  1. Each army division comprised 4,500 troops.

  2. The play comprises three acts.

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.

Origin and Etymology of comprise

Middle English, from Anglo-French compris, past participle of comprendre, from Latin comprehendere —see comprehend

First Known Use: 15th century

COMPRISE Defined for English Language Learners


verb com·prise \kəm-ˈprīz\

Definition of comprise for English Language Learners

  • : to be made up of (something) : to include or consist of (something)

  • : to make up or form (something)

COMPRISE Defined for Kids


verb com·prise \kəm-ˈprīz\

Definition of comprise for Students



  1. 1 :  to be made up of :  consist of <The play comprises three acts.>

  2. 2 :  2form 3 <Nine players comprise a baseball team.>

Seen and Heard

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related through a mother

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