View synonyms for element


[ el-uh-muhnt ]


  1. a component or constituent of a whole or one of the parts into which a whole may be resolved by analysis:

    Bricks and mortar are elements of every masonry wall.

  2. Chemistry. one of a class of substances that cannot be separated into simpler substances by chemical means.
  3. a natural habitat, sphere of activity, environment, etc.:

    to be in one's element;

    Water is the element of fish.

  4. elements,
    1. atmospheric agencies or forces; weather:

      a ruddy complexion from exposure to the elements.

    2. the rudimentary principles of an art, science, etc.:

      the elements of grammar.

    3. the bread and wine of the Eucharistic service.
  5. any group of people singled out within a larger group by identifiable behavior patterns, common interests, ethnic similarities, etc.:

    He worried that the protest rally would attract the radical element.

  6. one of the substances, usually earth, water, air, and fire, formerly regarded as constituting the material universe.
  7. Mathematics.
    1. an infinitesimal part of a given quantity, similar in nature to it.
    2. an entity that satisfies all the conditions of belonging to a given set.
  8. Geometry. one of the points, lines, planes, or other geometrical forms, of which a figure is composed.
  9. Astronomy. any of the data required to define the precise nature of an orbit and to determine the position of a planet in the orbit at any given time.
  10. Electricity. an electric device with terminals for connection to other electrical devices.
  11. Radio. one of the electrodes in a vacuum tube.
  12. Astrology. any of the four triplicity groupings of signs: fire, earth, air, or water.
  13. Optics. any of the lenses or other components constituting an optical system.
  14. Grammar. any word, part of a word, or group of words that recurs in various contexts in a language with relatively constant meaning.
  15. Digital Technology. the start and end tags in an electronic document or web page, along with the text or other content between these tags. tag 1( def 9b ).


/ ˈɛlɪmənt /


  1. any of the 118 known substances (of which 93 occur naturally) that consist of atoms with the same number of protons in their nuclei Compare compound 1
  2. one of the fundamental or irreducible components making up a whole
  3. a cause that contributes to a result; factor
  4. any group that is part of a larger unit, such as a military formation
  5. a small amount; hint

    an element of sarcasm in her voice

  6. a distinguishable section of a social group

    he belonged to the stable element in the expedition

  7. the most favourable environment for an animal or plant
  8. the situation in which a person is happiest or most effective (esp in the phrases in or out of one's element )
  9. the resistance wire and its former, which constitute the electrical heater in a cooker, heater, etc
  10. electronics another name for component
  11. one of the four substances thought in ancient and medieval cosmology to constitute the universe (earth, air, water, or fire)
  12. plural atmospheric conditions or forces, esp wind, rain, and cold

    exposed to the elements

  13. plural the first principles of a subject
  14. geometry a point, line, plane, or part of a geometric figure
  15. maths
    1. any of the terms in a determinant or matrix
    2. one of the infinitesimally small quantities summed by an integral, often represented by the expression following the integral sign

      in ʃbaf(x)dx, f(x)dx is an element of area

  16. maths logic one of the objects or numbers that together constitute a set
  17. Christianity the bread or wine consecrated in the Eucharist
  18. astronomy any of the numerical quantities, such as the major axis or eccentricity, used in describing the orbit of a planet, satellite, etc
  19. one of the vertical or horizontal rods forming a television or VHF radio receiving aerial
  20. physics a component of a compound lens


/ ĕlə-mənt /

  1. A substance that cannot be broken down into simpler substances by chemical means. An element is composed of atoms that have the same atomic number, that is, each atom has the same number of protons in its nucleus as all other atoms of that element. Today 117 elements are known, of which 92 are known to occur in nature, while the remainder have only been made with particle accelerators. Eighty-one of the elements have isotopes that are stable. The others, including technetium, promethium, and those with atomic numbers higher than 83, are radioactive.
  2. Mathematics.
    A member of a set.


  1. In chemistry , any material (such as carbon , hydrogen , iron, or oxygen ) that cannot be broken down into more fundamental substances. Each chemical element has a specific type of atom , and chemical compounds are created when atoms of different elements are bound together into molecules . There are 119 chemical elements whose discovery has been claimed; 92 occur in nature, and the rest have been produced in laboratories.

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Other Words From

  • inter·ele·ment adjective noun
  • sub·ele·ment noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of element1

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English, from Old French, from Latin elementum “one of the four elements, letter of the alphabet, first principle, rudiment”

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Word History and Origins

Origin of element1

C13: from Latin elementum a first principle, alphabet, element, of uncertain origin

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Word History

When Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev devised the Periodic Table in 1869, there were 63 known elements , which he classified by atomic weight, and arranged a table listing them with vertical rows corresponding to shared chemical characteristics. Gaps in the table suggested the possibility of elements not yet discovered, and indeed elements were later discovered, or in some cases, artificially created, that filled the gaps and had the expected chemical properties. The striking correlation between the atomic weight of an element and its chemical properties was later explained by quantum mechanical theories of the atom. The weight of an atom of any given element depends on the number of protons (and neutrons) in its nucleus, but the number of protons also determines the number and arrangement of electrons that can orbit the nucleus, and it is these outer shells of electrons that largely determine the element's chemical properties.

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Idioms and Phrases

see brave the elements ; in one's element .

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Synonym Study

Element, component, constituent, ingredient refer to units that are parts of whole or complete substances, systems, compounds, or mixtures. Element denotes a fundamental, ultimate part: the basic elements of matter; resolve the problem into its elements. Component and constituent refer to a part that goes into the making of a complete system or compound. Component often refers to one of a number of parts: Lab work is an important component of the science course. Constituent suggests a necessary part of the whole: The constituents of a molecule of water are two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. Ingredient is most frequently used in nonscientific contexts: the ingredients of a cake; the ingredients of a successful marriage.

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Example Sentences

Also spending on other, and different, elements of the campaign.

Only the Soviet Union has successfully landed on the Venusian surface—its Venera 13 lander functioned for 127 minutes before succumbing to the elements in 1982.

It’s ubiquitous in the nation, so it’s easy to see how it could become a hugely disruptive element in the search landscape.

To do this, the team analyzed isotopes — different forms of an element — of carbon and nitrogen in the diamonds, as well as isotopes of oxygen in the inclusions.

Here’s a comprehensive guide that looks into all the elements that you can capture to win your spot in Google’s top SERP real estate.

Very bass-y house, if I was in my element and playing what I like to play.

It may now be time for RSD to address the violent element within his own organization.

Anne Marie was in her element, jabbering away in heavily accented Liberian English, the center of attention.

The public cheered Holmes when she broke away from Cruise with a similar element of challenge and ingenuity.

Regrow limbs, cure cancer, or rock a killer outfit à la Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element.

And now there was added to this devotion an element of indefinable anxiety which made its vigilance unceasing.

That he might lose his head and 'introduce an element of sex' was conscience confessing that it had been already introduced.

This element of symbolic indication will be found to run through the whole of childish drawing.

At once dignified, solemn, and impressive, it combined every element of grandeur.

His good sense showed him how large an element of injustice entered into these hostilities.


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More About Element

What is a basic definition of element?

An element is a substance that cannot be separated into simpler substances through chemistry. An element is also an important component of something or a natural habitat. Element has many other senses as a noun.

In chemistry, an element is something that cannot be broken down any further. If you have taken a chemistry class, you’ve likely seen the periodic table, which displays all the known chemical elements. The study and measuring of elements is one of the central focuses of the scientific field of chemistry. For example, water (H2O) is made of the elements hydrogen and oxygen. We can split water into hydrogen and oxygen, but we cannot use chemistry to split oxygen or hydrogen into anything else.

  • Real-life examples: The substances we know as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium, and gold are examples of elements.
  • Used in a sentence: Ammonia is made of the elements nitrogen and hydrogen.

Outside of science, an element is a main component or ingredient of something, as bricks would be for a brick wall, for example. The words elemental and elementary are sometimes used in a similar sense to describe things that are the simplest principles or basic components of something.

  • Real-life examples: Peanut butter, jelly, and bread are the elements of a PB&J sandwich. Cement and water are elements of concrete. Tires, brakes, and an engine are elements of a functioning vehicle.
  • Used in a sentence: Love and trust are elements of a strong relationship.

An element can also be a place where someone or something feels comfortable or naturally wants to be. In terms of people, we say a person is “in their element” when they are doing something they are really good at or in a situation that they really enjoy.

  • Real-life examples: A kitchen is the element of a professional chef. A surfer is in their element at a beach with a lot of big waves. The rainforest is the element of jaguars.
  • Used in a sentence: The supermodel was in his element while posing for pictures during the movie premiere.

Where does element come from?

The first records of element come from around 1250. It ultimately comes from the Latin elementum, meaning “one of the four elements” or “rudiment.”

In early history, it was thought that all of creation was made of four basic things: earth, air, fire, and water. The word elementum referred to these substances.

Today, we know that creation is actually more complicated, but we sometimes still use the word element to refer to these substances, particularly in fantasy stories and other works of fiction.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to element?

  • interelement (adjective, noun)
  • subelement (noun)

What are some synonyms for element?

What are some words that share a root or word element with element

What are some words that often get used in discussing element?

How is element used in real life?

Element is a word often used in reference to chemistry or a main component of something.

Try using element!

True or False?

In chemistry, an element is a substance that cannot be further separated into simpler parts.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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