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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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 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 Students of color comprise 24% of graduating seniors; 20% of those enrolled in college; 10% of those in teacher preparation programs; and only 6% of teachers statewide. James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11 June 2021 This group should comprise not only developers but also content creators who can discuss how accessibility is part of their job, too. Dylan Barrell, Forbes, 11 June 2021 Those transfers can comprise profit-sharing with affiliated hackers who develop and rent out the ransomware, transfers to money launderers who clean illicit funds, or attempts to convert crypto to fiat currencies. David Uberti, WSJ, 11 June 2021 The Hall of Excellence would comprise only about 10 percent of the center’s nearly 13,000 square feet of exhibits., 26 May 2021 The commencement will comprise five ceremonies over several days at Mangrum Track and Field. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 May 2021 Hispanic men, as the Latinx in AI group previously noted, comprise a significant portion of truck drivers. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, 14 May 2021 In Arlington, summer school will comprise two distinct programs — five days a week of in-person learning and five days a week of full distance learning — and families will be able to choose between them. Washington Post, 23 Apr. 2021 The rate would comprise 39.6%, nearly doubling the current top rate of 20%, and the 3.8% net investment surtax imposed on taxpayers earning more than $250,000 (for joint filers) by the Affordable Care Act. Los Angeles Times, 22 Apr. 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

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The first known use of comprise was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

15 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2021.

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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.


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