com·​prise kəm-ˈprīz How to pronounce comprise (audio)
comprised; comprising

transitive verb

: to be made up of
The factory was to be a vast installation, comprising fifty buildings. Jane Jacobs
The play comprises three acts.
: 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
: 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)
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, 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.

Example Sentences

Each army division comprised 4,500 troops. The play comprises three acts.
Recent Examples on the Web Nor does The Calling demonstrate any real interest in complicating the hero cops that comprise its core cast. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Nov. 2022 Angélica Blandón, Alejandra Sandoval, Katherine Escobar, Yuly Ferreira and Andrea Gómez comprise the main cast. Selena Barrientos, Good Housekeeping, 29 July 2022 The two days of racing comprise 14 races, five on Friday and nine on Saturday, worth more than $31 million. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 22 July 2022 Students from Frankfort, Justice, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Orland Park and Tinley Park and community members from Palos Heights and Palos Hills comprise the cast and are writing the show in collaboration with Lamb. Jessi Virtusio,, 28 Oct. 2021 The companies that comprise the 2022 Deloitte Cincinnati 100 will have to handle the ebbs and flows of the potential volatile economic tides. Tom Plaut, The Enquirer, 10 Nov. 2022 Overall, Arizona is home to nearly half a million naturalized citizens that comprise more than 6% of the state's total population. Devin Dwyer, ABC News, 21 Oct. 2022 Of the 750 networks that comprise the Iranian internet, only three can connect to the wider web beyond the country’s borders. WIRED, 20 Oct. 2022 Andrea Wilson have approved the the barrels that will comprise the 2022 Michter’s 20 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which will start to ship to retailers in November. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 19 Oct. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

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


Dictionary Entries Near comprise

Cite this Entry

“Comprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


com·​prise kəm-ˈprīz How to pronounce comprise (audio)
comprised; comprising
: include, contain
the test comprised two essay questions
: to be made up of
the play comprises three acts
: compose sense 1b, constitute
nine players comprise a baseball team

More from Merriam-Webster on comprise

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