When something comprises other things, it is made up of them or formed from them. The periodic table comprises 118 elements, because the whole comprises the parts.

In its traditional use, the word comprise is the opposite of compose: if A comprises X, Y, and Z, then X, Y, and Z compose A. But because compose and comprise sound so much alike, people have long confused the two. So now you often hear things like "The band is comprised of a guitarist, a bassist, and a hairy drummer," whereas sticklers would prefer "is composed of" in that sentence. The word is undergoing a usage shift, making it just as hairy as that drummer!

Definitions of comprise
  1. verb
    be composed of
    “The land he conquered comprised several provinces”
    synonyms: consist
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    type of:
    have the quality of being; (copula, used with an adjective or a predicate noun)
  2. verb
    include or contain; have as a component
    “A totally new idea is comprised in this paper”
    synonyms: contain, incorporate
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    type of:
    have as a part, be made up out of
  3. verb
    form or compose
    “These few men comprise his entire army”
    synonyms: be, constitute, make up, represent
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    show 10 types...
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    constitute the essence of
    form the substance of
    constitute, form, make
    to compose or represent:"This wall forms the background of the stage setting"
    range, straddle
    range or extend over; occupy a certain area
    fall into, fall under
    be included in or classified as
    pose, present
    serve as a supplement to
    form a chelate, in chemistry
    stretch over
    constitute an addition
Commonly confused words

compose / comprise

Compose is to make up a whole, and comprise is to contain parts. Poodles compose the dog class because the class comprises poodles. The parts compose the whole, and the whole comprises the parts. Confused? Everybody else is!

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