From Old French compris, past participle of comprendre, from Latin comprehendere, contr. comprendere, past participle comprehensus (“to comprehend”); see comprehend. Compare apprise, reprise, surprise.
- To be made up of; to consist of (especially a comprehensive list of parts). [from earlier 15th c.]
- 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.
2011 December 10, David Ornstein, “Arsenal 1-0 Everton”, 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.
- To include, contain or embrace. [from earlier 15th c.]
- Our committee comprises a president, secretary, treasurer and five other members.
- (informal, considered incorrect, usually in 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 1, Nobody:
- 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.
- (patents) To include, contain or embrace, but not implying an exhaustive list.
The most recent usages, compose and constitute, whereby the passive form effectively means “the members comprise the team”, are usually informal and often considered incorrect. By classical definition, a team comprises its members, whereas the members compose the team. It is not proper to use comprise in place of compose. With regard to journalistic writing, the Associated Press Stylebook maintains this distinction. These usages are, however, quite common, with the "compose" variation being more common than the "constitute" one.
According to Webster's Dictionary, the usage dates back to the late 18th century, when it was usually found in technical writing. Webster's indicates that this usage is becoming increasingly common in nontechnical literature, while American Heritage Dictionary and Random House Dictionary state that it is an increasingly frequent and accepted usage.
The use of "of" with an active use of the verb is unequivocally incorrect (see of: composition), thus "the UK comprises of four countries" and "a round comprising of four games" are incorrect.
- comprise in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
- comprise in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911
- feminine past participle of