Borrowed from Old French compris, past participle of comprendre, from Latin comprehendere, contr. comprendere, past participle comprehensus (to comprehend); see comprehend. Compare apprise, reprise, surprise.


  • IPA(key): /kəmˈpɹaɪz/
  • (file)


comprise (third-person singular simple present comprises, present participle comprising, simple past and past participle comprised)

  1. To be made up of; to consist of (especially a comprehensive list of parts). [from earlier 15thc.]
    The whole comprises the parts.
    The parts are comprised by the whole.

    However, the passive voice of comprise must be employed carefully to make sense. Phrases such as "animals and cages are comprised by zoos" or "pitchers, catchers, and fielders are comprised by baseball teams" highlight the difficulty. See usage below.
    • 2011 December 10, David Ornstein, “Arsenal 1-0 Everton”, in BBC Sport:
      Arsenal were playing without a recognised full-back - their defence comprising four centre-halves - and the lack of width was hindering their progress.
  2. To contain or embrace. [from earlier 15thc.]
    Our committee comprises a president, secretary, treasurer and five other members.
  3. (sometimes proscribed, usually in the passive) To compose, to constitute. See usage note below.
    A team is comprised of its members.
    The members comprise the team.
    • 1657, Isaac Barrow, Data (Euclid) (translation), Prop. XXX
      "Seeing then the angles comprised of equal right lines are equal, we have found the angle FDE equal to the angle ABC."
    • 1914, Louis Joseph Vance, chapter I, in Nobody, New York, N.Y.: George H[enry] Doran Company, published 1915, OCLC 40817384:
      Three chairs of the steamer type, all maimed, comprised the furniture of this roof-garden, with (by way of local colour) on one of the copings a row of four red clay flower-pots filled with sun-baked dust from which gnarled and rusty stalks thrust themselves up like withered elfin limbs.
  4. (patent law) To include, contain, or be made up of, defining the minimum elements, whether essential or inessential, to define an invention. ("Open-ended", doesn't limit to the items listed; cf. compose, which is "closed" and limits to the items listed.)

Usage notesEdit

  • Traditionally, a team comprised its members, whereas the members composed the team. (The Associated Press Stylebook advises journalists to maintain this distinction.) The sense "compose, constitute"—as in "the members comprise the team"—is sometimes considered incorrect. According to Webster's Dictionary, it dates back to the late 18th century, when it was usually found in technical writing, but Webster's indicates that it is becoming increasingly common in nontechnical literature as well. The American Heritage Dictionary and Random House Dictionary also state that it is an increasingly frequent and accepted usage.
  • In the passive voice, the use of "of" with comprise (i.e. "is/are comprised of") may be regarded as tautological because the same meaning can be expressed in the active ("comprises") without an "of", or with "composed of", which is both synonymous and non-tautological (since "compose" in this sense always requires an "of").
  • In most varieties of English, the use of "of" with the verb in the active (rather than passive) voice is consistently treated as incorrect, hence *"the UK comprises of four countries" and *"four countries comprise of the UK" are proscribed. Some Asian dialects are exceptions, including Malaysian English (quite commonly), and to varying degrees Indian, Singaporean, and others.
  • In patent law, the term "comprising" is "open ended" in most jurisdictions, but may be presumed to be a "closed" listing in other jurisdictions.


Related termsEdit


Further readingEdit





  1. feminine singular of the past participle of comprendre