el·​e·​ment | \ˈe-lə-mənt \

Definition of element 

1a : any of the four substances air, water, fire, and earth formerly believed to compose the physical universe

b elements plural : weather conditions especially : violent or severe weather battling the elements

c : the state or sphere natural or suited to a person or thing at school she was in her element

2 : a constituent part: such as

a elements plural : the simplest principles of a subject of study : rudiments

b(1) : a part of a geometric magnitude an infinitesimal element of volume

(2) : a generator of a geometric figure also : a line or line segment contained in the surface of a cone or cylinder

(3) : a basic member of a mathematical or logical class or set

(4) : one of the individual entries in a mathematical matrix or determinant

c : a distinct group within a larger group or community the criminal element in the city

d(1) : one of the necessary data or values on which calculations or conclusions are based

(2) : one of the factors determining the outcome of a process

e : any of the fundamental substances that consist of atoms of only one kind and that singly or in combination constitute all matter

f : a distinct part of a composite device

g : a subdivision of a military unit

3 elements plural : the bread and wine used in the Eucharist

element table

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Synonyms & Antonyms for element


building block, component, constituent, factor, ingredient, member



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Choose the Right Synonym for element

element, component, constituent, ingredient mean one of the parts of a compound or complex whole. element applies to any such part and often connotes irreducible simplicity. the basic elements of geometry component and constituent may designate any of the substances (whether elements or compounds) or the qualities that enter into the makeup of a complex product; component stresses its separate entity or distinguishable character. the components of a stereo system constituent stresses its essential and formative character. the constituents of a chemical compound ingredient applies to any of the substances which when combined form a particular mixture. the ingredients of a cocktail

Examples of element in a Sentence

Water is composed of the elements hydrogen and oxygen. a free press is an essential element of a democracy

Recent Examples on the Web

That said, while Déraciné mostly benefits from virtual reality, there are elements of this style of game that are worsened by the headset. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Déraciné is a short, somber VR story from the creators of Dark Souls," 6 Nov. 2018 These are all elements from the natural world that are going to vibrationally enhance your experience. Bri Luna, Glamour, "I'm a Real Witch, and I Spend $7,855 a Year on My Beauty Rituals," 31 Oct. 2018 His anti-democratic views are just one element of his disturbing rhetoric, though; the president-elect also freely spews misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ, and racist statements. Jen Kirby, Vox, "4 things to know about Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s new far-right president," 29 Oct. 2018 There are modern elements, for sure, especially in the curvatures of the faces and the smoothness of the surfaces. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "There’s More to This Sculptural Jewelry Than First Meets the Eye," 26 Oct. 2018 One thing that really stands out to me are all the elements that pull you through the frame of the image. Colin Diltz, The Seattle Times, "Reader’s Lens | Autumn blues on San Juan Island," 9 Oct. 2018 These are the four elements that make all food delicious. Andrea Whittle, Condé Nast Traveler, "Netflix's 'Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat' Will Make You Want to Book a Plane Ticket to Italy," 4 Oct. 2018 As with furniture, the materials themselves were a key element in these buildings — stone fireplaces extending into the walls were a common sight in living rooms, while terrazzo floors and wooden planked ceilings ran throughout. Hillary Brown, House Beautiful, "Everything You Need To Know About Mid-Century Modern Design," 13 Sep. 2018 Confidence is another key element of feeling mentally fit. Laura Schwecherl, SELF, "How to Train for a Marathon If You've Never Run One Before," 9 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'element.' 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 element

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for element

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin elementum

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Dictionary Entries near element



eleme figs





Statistics for element

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for element

The first known use of element was in the 13th century

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English Language Learners Definition of element

chemistry : one of the basic substances that are made of atoms of only one kind and that cannot be separated by ordinary chemical means into simpler substances

: a particular part of something (such as a situation or activity)

: a part of an electrical device that produces heat


el·​e·​ment | \ˈe-lə-mənt \

Kids Definition of element

1 : any of more than 100 substances that cannot by ordinary chemical means be separated into different substances Gold and carbon are elements.

2 : one of the parts of which something is made up There is an element of risk in surfing.

3 : the simplest principles of a subject of study the elements of arithmetic

4 : a member of a mathematical set

5 : the state or place natural to or suited to a person or thing At school I was in my element.

6 elements plural : the forces of nature


el·​e·​ment | \ˈel-ə-mənt \

Medical Definition of element 

1 : any of the four substances air, water, fire, and earth formerly believed to compose the physical universe

2 : a constituent part: as

a : any of more than 100 fundamental substances that consist of atoms of only one kind and that singly or in combination constitute all matter

b : one of the distinct parts (as a lens) of a composite device (as a microscope)

c : one of the basic constituent units (as a cell or fiber) of a tissue

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Legal Definition of element 

: one of the constituent parts (as a particular act, a mental state, or an attendant circumstance) of a crime as defined by statute that the prosecution must prove to win a conviction

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More from Merriam-Webster on element

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for element

Spanish Central: Translation of element

Nglish: Translation of element for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of element for Arabic Speakers

Comments on element

What made you want to look up element? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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