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 This could be a consulting firm or an advisory panel comprised of industry peers, experts and even legislators. Ashley Fulmer For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "How Boeing could still win back our trust," 4 Dec. 2019 The selection committee is comprised of Mullens, Gary Barta, Frank Beamer, Paola Boivin, Joe Castiglione, Ken Hatfield, Chris Howard, Ronnie Lott, Terry Mohajir, Ray Odierno, R.C. Slocum, Todd Stansbury and Scott Stricklin. Matt Murschel,, "Gators in line for New Year’s Six bowl bid after latest College Football Playoff rankings revealed," 3 Dec. 2019 Its talent roster is so far comprised mostly of former football players such as Florida phenom Kevin Carter and Notre Dame legend Rudy Ruettiger, both of whom can be booked for $50. Jeremy Henderson, al, "Iron Bowl legend Chris Davis will ruin a Bama fan’s day for $40," 27 Nov. 2019 The crust can be comprised of ingredients such as any type of breadcrumbs mixed with cheese a perhaps some bits of butter. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, "Gratin vs. casserole: Here's the difference and why these side dishes are favorites," 20 Nov. 2019 The casts, which number more than 50, are comprised of talent from throughout Northeast Ohio, including adults and children. cleveland, "Beachwood Community Theater brings ‘Matilda’ to the stage," 20 Nov. 2019 The annual date would be November 11th, comprised of four lonely 1s. The Economist, "One for the money," 16 Nov. 2019 In comparison to other seasons, the latest one was rather short — season 5 was comprised of nine episodes, while season four featured 13. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Adam Busby Shares the Real Reason 'Outdaughtered' Isn’t Airing a New Episode Tonight on TLC," 13 Nov. 2019 The exterior will be comprised of true-to-life versions of the Palace of Westminster, Houses of Parliament, and Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben, which was renamed for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee nearly eight years ago). Jennifer Fernandez, House Beautiful, "David Beckham's New Hotel in Asia Is a Tribute to All Things English," 13 Nov. 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

10 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 11 December 2019.

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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).


heavy with or as if with moisture

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