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

The ceiling portion of the mural was exposed to the elements for about two years, Coutts said, and there were big chunks of paint coming off, while the side panels had experienced some damage from light. Cassie Dickman, sacbee, "Iconic Tower Records mural in downtown is getting a little love," 10 July 2018 All the spaces, including the bathrooms, can be exposed to the elements. Jenny Xie, Curbed, "Stunning ‘floating house’ with ocean and jungle views asks $2M," 3 July 2018 Well, despite tensions that remain between player and ump, there’s little desire to eradicate the human element behind the plate, as 43 of 50 players want to save the umpires. Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY, "MLB players survey: Sounding off on umps, shifts, steroids - and whether to strike back," 28 June 2018 Creator is led by robots, but the restaurant still has a human element. Justin Phillips, SFChronicle.com, "Six things to know about Creator, San Francisco’s new burger robot restaurant," 27 June 2018 How to create a naturalistic gaming environment that opens a player’s mind to the transcendent elements within? Catherine Cusick, Longreads, "Nintendo Can Keep a Secret," 22 June 2018 After a tornado ripped through the distillery's storied 1881 warehouse in 2006, the bourbon barrels inside were exposed to the elements for quite a while, creating a different flavor profile. Sarah Riley And Zahria Rogers, The Courier-Journal, "From 'bourbonado' to big spills: Kentucky's historic bourbon disasters," 22 June 2018 Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue has said multiple times that his instincts tell him the 60-year-old is dead — either by suicide or exposure to the elements. Nicole Blanchard And Ruth Brown, idahostatesman, "He left behind 3 dead women & disappeared. Friends, family & the law still seek answers.," 15 June 2018 While many of the broad elements of the Russian scheme were known before, investigators have not previously said how the Russian agents paid for the hacking campaign. Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, "12 Russian Agents Indicted in Mueller Investigation," 13 July 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

19 Sep 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

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the setting in which something occurs

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