el·​e·​ment | \ ˈe-lə-mənt How to pronounce element (audio) \

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



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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 While privacy is undoubtedly an important element to consider, the singular focus on it has left a significant blind spot: how well will these apps work, and how might accuracy problems impact adoption? Wired Opinion, Wired, "The Success of Contact Tracing Doesn't Just Depend on Privacy," 23 May 2020 The hot water step is another potentially problematic element of this cleaning method. Jessica Bennett, Better Homes & Gardens, "Should You Try that Viral Garbage Disposal Hack? A Plumbing Expert Weighs In," 22 May 2020 There's a significant element of guilt in not contributing. Scientific American, "Grief on the Front Line—and Beyond," 22 May 2020 Homemade bread is another special element that is all the rage right now, with yeast being one of the hardest to find ingredients in a grocery store. Chuck Blount, ExpressNews.com, "Chuck’s Food Shack: The details that will take your burger, barbecue, from good to great this Memorial Day weekend," 18 May 2020 Her continual presence on these stages and others, including the South by Southwest Film Festival, was a defining element of her legacy as a fixture of the independent filmmaking community. cleveland, "Lynn Shelton 1965-2020: Director of ‘Humpday’ and ‘Sword of Trust,’ found beauty in human imperfection," 18 May 2020 That got sidelined because the atmosphere of the time made everyone focus on the gender element of it. David Canfield, EW.com, "Tana French has a new book on the way. She promises it's less depressing," 29 Apr. 2020 Congress is set to inject another $310 billion, but lawmakers have yet to reach consensus on other elements of the bill. Khristopher J. Brooks, CBS News, "A criminal past means no Paycheck Protection Program loan," 21 Apr. 2020 Younger students might have daily virtual check-ins with teachers and follow along on a Zoom drawing class, as well as working on hands-on elements like craft projects or gardening kits that are distributed to families. Sarah Feldberg, SFChronicle.com, "Coronavirus shutdown leads parents to rewrite rules on screen time," 20 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for element

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for element

Last Updated

29 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Element.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/element. Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for element


How to pronounce element (audio)

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 How to pronounce element (audio) \

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 How to pronounce element (audio) \

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

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