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 ©2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Medical Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus