tr.v. com·prised, com·pris·ing, com·pris·es
1. To be composed of or contain: The staff comprises eight physicians, two dozen nurses, and various administrative people. See Synonyms at include.
2. Usage Problem To compose; make up; constitute: the countries and territories that comprised the British Empire.
[Middle English comprisen, from Old French compris, past participle of comprendre, to include, from Latin comprehendere, comprēndere; see COMPREHEND.]
Usage Note: The traditional rule states that the whole comprises the parts and the parts compose the whole. In strict usage: The Union comprises 50 states. Fifty states compose (or make up) the Union. Even though many writers maintain this distinction, comprise is often used in place of compose, especially in the passive: The Union is comprised of 50 states. Our surveys show that opposition to this usage has abated but has not disappeared. In the 1960s, 53 percent of the Usage Panel found this usage unacceptable; by 1996, the proportion objecting had declined to 35 percent; and by 2011, it had fallen a bit more, to 32 percent. See Usage Note at include.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.