1. A fundamental, essential, or irreducible constituent of a composite entity.
2. elements The basic assumptions or principles of a subject.
a. A member of a set.
b. A point, line, or plane.
c. A part of a geometric configuration, such as an angle in a triangle.
d. The generatrix of a geometric figure.
e. Any of the terms in the rectangular array of terms that constitute a matrix or determinant.
4. Chemistry & Physics A substance composed of atoms having an identical number of protons in each nucleus. Elements cannot be reduced to simpler substances by normal chemical means. See Periodic Table.
5. One of four substances, earth, air, fire, or water, formerly regarded as a fundamental constituent of the universe.
6. Electricity The resistance wire in an electrical appliance such as a heater or an oven.
7. elements The forces that constitute the weather, especially severe or inclement weather:outside paint that had been damaged by the elements.
8. An environment naturally suited to or associated with an individual:He is in his element when traveling. The business world is her element.
9. A distinct group within a larger community:the dissident element on campus.
10. A part of a military force, especially:
a. A ground unit in an air force comparable to a platoon.
b. A unit of an air force equal to two or three aircraft.
11. elements The bread and wine of the Eucharist.
[Middle English, fromOld French, fromLatinelementum, perhaps ultimately fromlmn, first three letters of the second half of the Canaanite alphabet, recited by ancient scribes when learning it.]
Synonyms: element, component, constituent, factor, ingredient
These nouns denote one of the individual parts of which a composite entity is made up:the grammatical elements of a sentence; real estate as a component of wealth; a protein that is a constituent of a virus; analyzed the factors that led to the accident; a cake made of flour, eggs, and other ingredients.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 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.