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.See also tag1(def 9b).


  1. any of the 118 known substances (of which 93 occur naturally) that consist of atoms with the same number of protons in their nucleiCompare compound 1 (def. 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; hintan element of sarcasm in her voice
  6. a distinguishable section of a social grouphe 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 (def. 2)
  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 coldexposed 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 signin ʃ b a f( x) d x, f( x )d x 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

c.1300, “earth, air, fire, or water,” from Old French element (10c.), from Latin elementem “rudiment, first principle, matter in its most basic form” (translating Greek stoikheion), origin unknown. Meaning “simplest component of a complex substance” is late 14c. Modern sense in chemistry is from 1813. Elements “atmospheric force” is 1550s.


  1. A substance that cannot be reduced to simpler substances by normal chemical means and that is composed of atoms having an identical number of protons in each nucleus.
  2. A fundamental, essential, or irreducible constituent of a composite entity.

  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. See Periodic Table.
  2. Mathematics A member of a set.

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.

see brave the elements; in one’s element.

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