comprise

verb
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 The latest package will comprise cash grants, tax relief and fee waivers that in total is equivalent to about a quarter of the state’s annual tax revenue, Premier Daniel Andrews said at a press conference Sunday. Harry Brumpton, Bloomberg.com, "Australia’s Victoria State Boosts Relief Package to Businesses," 12 Sep. 2020 In tracts with the fewest broadband subscriptions, people of color typically comprise about 75% of the population. Theresa Diffendal, The Enquirer, "Ohio matches 2010's Census return rate, despite pandemic and short deadlines," 5 Sep. 2020 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands people comprise 2% of Australia's adult population but 27% of the prison population. John Pye, Star Tribune, "Freeman's legacy endures long after Sydney's flame went out," 14 Aug. 2020 Consider, alongside that stat, the fact that Black people comprise only about 14% of the country’s population. Alex Burness, The Denver Post, "The Spot: What changed Gov. Polis’ mind on mask mandate, and why Colorado is seeing presidential ads now," 16 July 2020 The study was large, comprising ten separate research teams focusing on the minutia of the Kelly brothers' physiology, examining everything from epigenetics to gene expression. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The First Results From NASA's Historic Twin Study Are Here," 11 Apr. 2019 Northern California would comprise the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Sacramento and counties north of the current state capital. Sophia Bollag, The Seattle Times, "Opponents sue to nix ballot measure to split California in 3," 10 July 2018

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

18 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/comprise. Accessed 28 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for comprise

comprise

verb
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)

comprise

verb
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

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