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Comprise
The Whole and the Parts

By Evan Jenkins

The story spoke of “the 30 companies whose stocks comprise the Dow Jones industrial average.” It’s the other way around. The average comprises the stocks, because the whole comprises the parts. So the stocks make up (or constitute or compose) the average. “Comprise” comes through French from the Latin “comprehendere,” which also gave us the English word “comprehend,” which is synonymous in one of its meanings — embrace, encompass — with “comprise.” And “comprise” is a near-synonym for “include,” except that it means to include everything. If “include” wouldn’t make sense — those stocks don’t include the Dow — we can’t use “comprise.” And while we’re at it, that’s also why we can’t use “is comprised of.” Would we say “is included of”? Doesn’t make sense.

CJR

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Sept / Oct 08

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