Definition of element in US English:



  • 1A part or aspect of something abstract, especially one that is essential or characteristic.

    ‘the death had all the elements of a great tabloid story’
    ‘there are four elements to the proposal’
    • ‘It doesn't cover all the elements of an immigration policy you need.’
    • ‘It does have an obligation to understand all the elements of social dislocation but it is only one player in identifying solutions.’
    • ‘All the elements of the theatrical cycle of tragedy are there: over-vaulting ambition, blindness to reality, a hard, harsh landing.’
    • ‘All the elements of a good dark comedy are here: a murder, a dysfunctional family, someone in a clown suit and so on - but they should be tweaked further.’
    • ‘IIB Bank chief economist Austin Hughes also sees good news in the survey for retailers when all the elements of the survey are taken together.’
    • ‘It is argued that if resources, real resources, are made available to implement all the elements of the act, then it could make a real impact.’
    • ‘The story of ‘The Odyssey’ has all the elements of a long running Hollywood mini-series.’
    • ‘It has all the elements of tragedy yet avoids being a tragedy.’
    • ‘It has far more structured pieces with all the elements of classical music, hard rock, ethnic, folk, and modern dance all mixed together.’
    • ‘It's all the elements of national power that are at our disposal.’
    • ‘But it was also the subject of prosecutions under orthodox 19th century criminal law, all the elements of which survive.’
    • ‘There are all the elements of dance and theatre combined with the visceral thrill of watching metal meet metal again and again until, finally, metal meets actor.’
    • ‘This had all the elements of the perfect stunt, and sales soared… except that there really was a car crash - although luckily no one was too badly hurt.’
    • ‘Combining all the elements of this site, this bit of the site is updated frequently - check back often (you never know what you might find).’
    • ‘They have all the elements of a gripping yarn: good guys, bad guys, double-crossing, starlets, money and power.’
    • ‘Here we cannot examine all the elements of the Banking Act of 1944 and the White Paper on Full Employment but some elements were crucial.’
    • ‘His life has all the elements of the American Dream.’
    • ‘You see all the elements of specifically American self-confidence in Star Trek, too.’
    • ‘But the panic his paper launched has all the elements of a classic modern health scare.’
    • ‘‘Blood Wedding’ by Frederico Lorca possesses all the elements of a typical Spanish tragedy.’
    component, constituent, part, section, portion, piece, segment, bit
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    1. 1.1 A small but significant presence of a feeling or abstract quality.
      ‘it was the element of danger he loved in flying’
      • ‘A different kind at each school is recommended, and the element of danger at enrolment time will lend an aphrodisiacal quality to the proceedings.’
      • ‘It was a dialogue - based work with a significant element of psychology.’
      • ‘Protocols have been established, so there's a significant element of confidence when we go into humans.’
      • ‘These qualities inject an element of interactivity in good drawings.’
      • ‘My problem is the majority of the blog posts I write with a certain amount/an element of tongue in cheek.’
      trace, touch, hint, smattering, suspicion, soupçon
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    2. 1.2elements The rudiments of a branch of knowledge.
      ‘legal training may include the elements of economics and political science’
      • ‘And, I think that would be the best pedagogical introduction, to the elements of the subject-matter.’
      • ‘He wrote a textbook as a consequence of the lecture courses he taught, publishing Lectures on the elements of applied mechanics in 1877.’
      • ‘The book contained the elements of geometry and algebra in addition to the calculus.’
      • ‘At the time when these papers were written he had received no instruction in mathematics beyond a few books of Euclid and the merest elements of algebra.’
      basics, essentials, principles, first principles
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    3. 1.3often elementsusually with modifier A group of people of a particular kind within a larger group or organization.
      ‘extreme right-wing elements in the army’
      • ‘If so, whether it was official French sources or rogue elements within France who did so also is unclear.’
      • ‘There is an identification of the church of Antioch with those liberal elements present in the contemporaneous Church of England.’
      • ‘Pro-business elements within the Liberal Party have groomed Brogden as a future state leader since his early 20s.’
      • ‘The acknowledgement that there are rogue elements within Sinn Féin is in itself significant.’
      • ‘There has even been speculation that some rogue elements within the British Army tried to sabotage Stevens' light aircraft last year.’
      • ‘I find it plausible that the IRA or some rogue elements within the IRA may have been involved.’
      • ‘I don't rule out that some rogue elements within, say, one unit might misbehave, but that does not make it at all a policy.’
      • ‘He has no doubt elements within British intelligence were involved in the plot that killed 33 people.’
      • ‘The issue has divided elements of the United Methodist Church, which sponsors more Scout troops than any other organization.’
      • ‘They pleaded to other religious leaders to handle correctly the extremist elements within their own religious movements.’
      • ‘Instead, the president and key elements within the Republican Party have sought to redefine the debate over foreign aid.’
      • ‘Muslim leaders in Britain agree that there are extremist elements within their communities but they disagree on how to tackle them.’
      • ‘You're going to have Gore over and over again trying to associate Bush with the rightist right wing elements of his party.’
      • ‘Although she did not join any particular party grouping, she generally supported the most right-wing elements within the conservatives.’
      • ‘While some of these criticisms may be true for the most conservative elements of the Church, most of them have been invalid since the Council of Trent.’
      • ‘Is their intent any less racist or repulsive than the extremist elements within Zionism?’
      • ‘I do not understand why elements of the Christian church have this agenda to destroy people's lives and happiness, but it does not feel like a Christian attitude to me.’
      • ‘There are also plenty of priests who, themselves, want to see the bad elements within the Church excised.’
      • ‘Such benefits aside, however, elements of the church have taken aim at several Fox programs.’
      • ‘Then there are those who say he may be being protected by rogue elements within Pakistan's security forces.’
    4. 1.4elements (in church use) the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
      • ‘It is a sacred meal in which the minister consecrates the elements by asking God to set them apart from their normal and common uses.’
      • ‘The non-divine, but human-made Eucharistic elements of bread and wine can affect only the material body.’
      • ‘This spiritual authority is often signified by the bodily gestures of the priest while he or she is consecrating the elements while presiding at the Eucharist.’
      • ‘Spreading the gifts they bring on the table, the deacon leads their acclamations and distributes the consecrated elements.’
      • ‘Both the consecrated elements and the church simply are the body of Christ.’
    5. 1.5Mathematics Logic An entity that is a single member of a set.
      • ‘In his talk Steinitz introduced an algebra over the ring of integers whose base elements are isomorphism classes of finite abelian groups.’
      • ‘So in order to be sure that such a case is not missed, you would need to check all possible combinations of elements in ternary plots - of which there are several thousand!’
      • ‘In his doctoral dissertation of 1934 he considered permutation groups whose elements are determined by the images of three points.’
      • ‘As another generalization, consider the sum of elements in an off-diagonal 2x2 array.’
      • ‘Its elements are transformed into vectors of another linear space, in which data is assigned.’
  • 2Each of more than one hundred substances that cannot be chemically interconverted or broken down into simpler substances and are primary constituents of matter. Each element is distinguished by its atomic number, i.e. the number of protons in the nuclei of its atoms.

    • ‘The decay of neutrons into protons is essential for the existence of the element hydrogen, whose nucleus is a single proton.’
    • ‘In such a case, an element's atomic number and atomic mass should be about equal.’
    • ‘Actinides are the elements above atomic number 89 and are usually radioactive.’
    • ‘He postulated that all the atoms of the same element have the same atomic mass, while the atoms of a different element have a different atomic mass.’
    • ‘If you have looked at a periodic table you may have noticed that the atomic mass of an element is rarely an even number.’
    • ‘First, the oxidation state of any atom in an uncombined element is equal to zero.’
    • ‘Early in 1999 synthesis of the element with atomic number 114 was reported.’
    • ‘The nucleus of the lightest element, hydrogen, consists of a single proton.’
    • ‘In 1934 Fermi reported the possibility that the atomic number of the element may be greater than 92.’
    • ‘Whatever the element, the atoms are made of electrons, neutrons, and protons.’
    • ‘Because of the different number of elementary particles in the atom the element is an isotope.’
    • ‘However, if a proton is added to the hydrogen atom, a new element, helium is created.’
    • ‘He called atoms of the second group isotopes, atoms of the same element with different atomic weights.’
    • ‘The way you infer that a star is old is by measuring the amount of heavy elements in the star.’
    • ‘They are most active in unstable elements of high atomic mass.’
    • ‘Some of the complex nuclei then either spit out or absorb the odd proton, making nuclei of other elements.’
    • ‘Through their studies of radioactive elements, they discovered nuclear fission.’
    • ‘They are atoms of the same element, so they have the same number of protons and electrons.’
    • ‘Why are there usually more neutrons than protons in a heavy element?’
    • ‘The samples are of particular interest to geologists because they contain large amounts of the element, osmium (Os).’
    1. 2.1 Any of the four substances (earth, water, air, and fire) regarded as the fundamental constituents of the world in ancient and medieval philosophy.
      • ‘Everything was made up of the four elements of earth, water, fire and air, and their linked qualities of cold, wet, hot and dry.’
      • ‘As a very rough guide, it is often true that people with suns in the same element (earth, water, air, fire) tend to get along more easily.’
      • ‘To our ancestors, the ancient elements of earth, air, fire and water had profound significance.’
      • ‘Within the ether all the other four gross elements are present (earth, water, fire and air) in a subtle form.’
      • ‘It also shows the relative contributions of the four major elements (water, earth, air and fire).’
      • ‘She controlled the four master elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air.’
      • ‘Hippocrates believed that the essence of matter was found in the four primary elements: Fire, Water, Air and Earth.’
      • ‘The elements of earth, water, air and fire would predominate in the respective masses, making them identifiable as such.’
      • ‘Densely rendered layers of pastel, mud and paint are applied to surfaces with images referencing the elements of fire, water, air and earth.’
      • ‘These numbered cards represent the elements of earth, air, fire and water, and usually deal with specific issues and courses of action.’
      • ‘The one thing that is true, and which you have obviously understood, is that each of the sun signs belongs to a particular element - fire, earth, air or water.’
      • ‘It was a story he recognised could only be told in terms of the four fundamental elements: earth, air, fire, water.’
      • ‘These classes will be structured thematically around the four elements of earth, air, fire and water.’
      • ‘The most amazing thing about Smartville is that it's built in the shape of a cross, with each wing named after one of the four elements - air, earth, fire, water.’
      • ‘I believe that there are four elements: earth, fire, water, and air.’
      • ‘In healing I focus the energy using the elements: fire water, air and earth.’
      • ‘As for us and our world, it consisted of the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water.’
      • ‘Alchemists believed that matter was made up of a mixture of Aristotle's elements: fire, earth, water and air.’
      • ‘In the old world they used to talk about the four elements: earth, air, fire and water.’
      • ‘She looked like she was bending the elements: fire, water, earth, and air.’
    2. 2.2 A person's or animal's natural or preferred environment.
      ‘he was raised in Hawaii and the sea is his natural element’
      • ‘The latter was one of her best pictures, and she was in her element as a fastidious, slightly cruel and watchful woman, trying to keep control of life.’
      • ‘As a self confessed car nut I was in my element examining pictures of Formula 1 cars and drivers, rally cars, scale models, trucks and bikes.’
      • ‘But once Jeanette took to the open road, she was in her element.’
      • ‘She was in her element and it quickly became apparent she had abilities that were invaluable in pressing for improvements for the people.’
      • ‘Larkham was in his element in his country's victory over Romania as he constantly probed for breaks against a brittle defence.’
      • ‘The man couldn't be offensive even if he tried and once the conversation centred around greyhounds and horses the genial Caseyville man was in his element.’
      • ‘After the storm, the quiet man was in his element.’
      • ‘The dynamic lass is in her element working at the airport as part of her third year of a four-year engineering apprenticeship with Stockport Engineering Training Centre.’
      • ‘And as such I was in my element at this big screen version of the 70s crime buster series.’
      • ‘‘There were 200 people around him and a helicopter overhead, and we felt he was in his element,’ he said.’
      • ‘According to the publican, the pub business was a highly lucrative trade at that time and Chris was in his element behind his popular bar.’
      • ‘During the initial question time, Worth was in his element.’
      • ‘Ryan was in his element, making yards with his low driving style, and with the rest of the pack adding their contributions further scores were bound to come.’
      • ‘He used to sit in the pub in Greek Street, next to our office, surrounded by admirers, and he was in his element.’
      • ‘Even so, Mr Galloway was in his element, playing the role he relishes the most: the little guy squaring up for a fight with the establishment.’
      • ‘I do believe he was in his element last night as a country singer, but his performance just really annoyed me.’
      • ‘Feisty and fizzing with energy, the 40 year-old multi-millionaire was in his element, playing the fool for a BBC film crew following his every move.’
      • ‘Any place where politics were discussed, Gerald was in his element.’
      • ‘And when it came to the children themselves, she was in her element.’
      • ‘And he was in his element in the amusements, gambling away his pocket money on the slot machines and cascades.’
      natural environment, favoured environment, familiar territory, territory, habitat, medium, milieu, sphere, field, domain, realm, circle, resort, haunt
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  • 3the elementsThe weather, especially strong winds, heavy rain, and other kinds of bad weather.

    ‘there was no barrier against the elements’
    • ‘Life is still much the same: a constant battle against the elements, as wind and sleeting rain batter the coal-mining land to black slush and mud.’
    • ‘The cages, measuring two meters by two meters, were open to the elements, letting in rain and giving no protection against the hot sun.’
    • ‘In the first part of the second half both sides had to defy the elements of wind and rain storms.’
    • ‘I want to go out and brave the elements, feel the wind, rain, snow, sun, whatever's out there.’
    • ‘Congratulations to all the runners who braved the harsh elements rain, wind and cold running the Helphire Bath Half Marathon on Sunday, March 14.’
    • ‘Despite the rain and wind a good number of people braved the elements and supported the sale.’
    • ‘The bloom's beauty and discreet fragrance were highly regarded, as were its protective qualities against the elements.’
    • ‘Once more, the elements played a significant factor in this game, with Kerry again playing into the strong wind in the opening half.’
    • ‘One thing that Stearns can't control is the elements, namely the wind.’
    • ‘It lacks shelter, though, so the five-hour walk across it can be a battle against the elements in poor weather.’
    • ‘The overlay is resistant to exposure to the elements, including high temperatures and freeze/thaw conditions.’
    • ‘Palmer and his associates struggle through the elements wrapped in heavy furs, their breath freezing in the air.’
    • ‘In the traditional theatre the space of separation should be open to the elements such as the wind and sunlight.’
    • ‘In the meantime, they remain at the mercy of the elements, and on rainy days, their business suffers.’
    • ‘High on the chalk Downs there was no escape from the elements and within seconds ladies wearing light Summer clothing were thoroughly soaked.’
    • ‘During this time, he has learnt to respect the elements, and try to make them work in his favour.’
    • ‘A woman walked resolutely through the elements, hunched within her worn, sopping cloak.’
    • ‘Tom Crean's story, a testament of human fortitude against all the elements of Antartica is brought to life in this dramatic solo performance.’
    • ‘He is a fallen angel who can control the elements, mainly wind and ice.’
    • ‘He then leaves the figures outside to be dried by the sun and wind, allowing the elements to intervene unpredictably in the artistic process.’
    the weather, the climate, meteorological conditions, atmospheric conditions, atmospheric forces
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  • 4A part in an electric teapot, heater, or stove that contains a wire through which an electric current is passed to provide heat.

    • ‘Using a damp cloth and plastic scouring pad, wipe the inside of the oven cavity and heating elements removing any food residue or grease.’
    • ‘The recovered wings all show twin pneumatic lines as well as electric lines for the heater element going out to the pilot tube.’
    • ‘Heating elements open and close by activating the electrical foot switch.’
    • ‘Spray 3 to 4 squirts of water on floor or sides of oven, taking care not to spray near heating element or lightbulb, then quickly close door.’
    • ‘They can - and will need to be - repaired over and over, mostly replacing the wire heating element and thermostat.’
    • ‘It your water heater has an electrical element, electrically disconnect the heater before you drain it.’
    • ‘The heating element had a significant amount of white hard water deposits built up on it.’
    • ‘The heating element includes heating segments connected together in an electric circuit.’
    • ‘An electric-resistance water heater has electric heating elements submerged in a storage tank.’
    • ‘Cold water travels through a pipe into the unit, and either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water only when needed.’
    • ‘There are many electrical resistance alloys used for resistance heating elements.’
    • ‘The plate is placed on a large, flat ceramic bed that has integral electric heating elements.’
    • ‘The local heaters pass the air over a resistive heating element to heat the air.’
    • ‘The spokesman said preliminary investigations showed that overheated wires in a heater element, and an overloaded thermostat, may have been the cause.’


  • be in (or out of) one's element

    • Be in (or not in) a situation or environment that one particularly likes and in which one can perform well.

      ‘she was in her element with doctors and hospitals’
      • ‘In the Bahamas they are out of their element, and they see needs and business needs more clearly.’
      • ‘The mice scattered as he approached and pounced, and before long he was in his element.’
      • ‘He put up world class numbers because he was in his element.’
      • ‘Actually, that's about how everyone in this film looks, with the possible exception of star Chris Rock, who is truly out of his element.’
      • ‘The crowd did its best to make him feel welcome, but Gibson was clearly out of his element.’
      • ‘I do believe he was in his element last night as a country singer, but his performance just really annoyed me.’
      • ‘On the other hand, Kordell Stewart looked totally confused and out of his element until the fourth quarter when the game was over.’
      • ‘Sean Egan was in his element meeting many old friends and enjoying the social side of the big occasion.’
      • ‘Serena confirmed her position as the dominant Williams sister and Lleyton Hewitt was in his element at Wimbledon 2002.’
      • ‘And so I found myself in Brighton and in my element.’


Middle English (denoting fundamental constituents of the world or celestial objects): via Old French from Latin elementum ‘principle, rudiment’, translating Greek stoikheion ‘step, component part’.