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’
    • ‘They have all the elements of a gripping yarn: good guys, bad guys, double-crossing, starlets, money and power.’
    • ‘It has all the elements of tragedy yet avoids being a tragedy.’
    • ‘It doesn't cover all the elements of an immigration policy you need.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But it was also the subject of prosecutions under orthodox 19th century criminal law, all the elements of which survive.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘You see all the elements of specifically American self-confidence in Star Trek, too.’
    • ‘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).’
    • ‘‘Blood Wedding’ by Frederico Lorca possesses all the elements of a typical Spanish tragedy.’
    • ‘All the elements of the theatrical cycle of tragedy are there: over-vaulting ambition, blindness to reality, a hard, harsh landing.’
    • ‘But the panic his paper launched has all the elements of a classic modern health scare.’
    • ‘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's all the elements of national power that are at our disposal.’
    • ‘It does have an obligation to understand all the elements of social dislocation but it is only one player in identifying solutions.’
    • ‘His life has all the elements of the American Dream.’
    • ‘It has far more structured pieces with all the elements of classical music, hard rock, ethnic, folk, and modern dance all mixed together.’
    • ‘The story of ‘The Odyssey’ has all the elements of a long running Hollywood mini-series.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    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’
      • ‘Protocols have been established, so there's a significant element of confidence when we go into humans.’
      • ‘My problem is the majority of the blog posts I write with a certain amount/an element of tongue in cheek.’
      • ‘It was a dialogue - based work with a significant element of psychology.’
      • ‘These qualities inject an element of interactivity in good drawings.’
      • ‘A different kind at each school is recommended, and the element of danger at enrolment time will lend an aphrodisiacal quality to the proceedings.’
      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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He wrote a textbook as a consequence of the lecture courses he taught, publishing Lectures on the elements of applied mechanics in 1877.’
      • ‘And, I think that would be the best pedagogical introduction, to the elements of the subject-matter.’
      • ‘The book contained the elements of geometry and algebra in addition to the calculus.’
      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’
      • ‘Then there are those who say he may be being protected by rogue elements within Pakistan's security forces.’
      • ‘There has even been speculation that some rogue elements within the British Army tried to sabotage Stevens' light aircraft last year.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The acknowledgement that there are rogue elements within Sinn Féin is in itself significant.’
      • ‘Is their intent any less racist or repulsive than the extremist elements within Zionism?’
      • ‘There are also plenty of priests who, themselves, want to see the bad elements within the Church excised.’
      • ‘I find it plausible that the IRA or some rogue elements within the IRA may have been involved.’
      • ‘He has no doubt elements within British intelligence were involved in the plot that killed 33 people.’
      • ‘Muslim leaders in Britain agree that there are extremist elements within their communities but they disagree on how to tackle them.’
      • ‘Such benefits aside, however, elements of the church have taken aim at several Fox programs.’
      • ‘There is an identification of the church of Antioch with those liberal elements present in the contemporaneous Church of England.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Instead, the president and key elements within the Republican Party have sought to redefine the debate over foreign aid.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If so, whether it was official French sources or rogue elements within France who did so also is unclear.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Pro-business elements within the Liberal Party have groomed Brogden as a future state leader since his early 20s.’
    4. 1.4elements (in church use) the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
      • ‘The non-divine, but human-made Eucharistic elements of bread and wine can affect only the material body.’
      • ‘Spreading the gifts they bring on the table, the deacon leads their acclamations and distributes the consecrated elements.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Both the consecrated elements and the church simply are the body of Christ.’
    5. 1.5Logic Mathematics An entity that is a single member of a set.
      • ‘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!’
      • ‘Its elements are transformed into vectors of another linear space, in which data is assigned.’
      • ‘In his doctoral dissertation of 1934 he considered permutation groups whose elements are determined by the images of three points.’
      • ‘In his talk Steinitz introduced an algebra over the ring of integers whose base elements are isomorphism classes of finite abelian groups.’
      • ‘As another generalization, consider the sum of elements in an off-diagonal 2x2 array.’
  • 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.

    • ‘In such a case, an element's atomic number and atomic mass should be about equal.’
    • ‘The nucleus of the lightest element, hydrogen, consists of a single proton.’
    • ‘Whatever the element, the atoms are made of electrons, neutrons, and protons.’
    • ‘Why are there usually more neutrons than protons in a heavy element?’
    • ‘First, the oxidation state of any atom in an uncombined element is equal to zero.’
    • ‘Actinides are the elements above atomic number 89 and are usually radioactive.’
    • ‘In 1934 Fermi reported the possibility that the atomic number of the element may be greater than 92.’
    • ‘He called atoms of the second group isotopes, atoms of the same element with different atomic weights.’
    • ‘Because of the different number of elementary particles in the atom the element is an isotope.’
    • ‘The way you infer that a star is old is by measuring the amount of heavy elements in the star.’
    • ‘If you have looked at a periodic table you may have noticed that the atomic mass of an element is rarely an even number.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The decay of neutrons into protons is essential for the existence of the element hydrogen, whose nucleus is a single proton.’
    • ‘However, if a proton is added to the hydrogen atom, a new element, helium is created.’
    • ‘Early in 1999 synthesis of the element with atomic number 114 was reported.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The samples are of particular interest to geologists because they contain large amounts of the element, osmium (Os).’
    • ‘They are most active in unstable elements of high atomic mass.’
    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.
      • ‘I believe that there are four elements: earth, fire, water, and air.’
      • ‘She controlled the four master elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air.’
      • ‘In healing I focus the energy using the elements: fire water, air and earth.’
      • ‘It also shows the relative contributions of the four major elements (water, earth, air and fire).’
      • ‘These classes will be structured thematically around the four elements of earth, air, fire and water.’
      • ‘She looked like she was bending the elements: fire, water, earth, and air.’
      • ‘Densely rendered layers of pastel, mud and paint are applied to surfaces with images referencing the elements of fire, water, air and earth.’
      • ‘Within the ether all the other four gross elements are present (earth, water, fire and air) in a subtle form.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘These numbered cards represent the elements of earth, air, fire and water, and usually deal with specific issues and courses of action.’
      • ‘Hippocrates believed that the essence of matter was found in the four primary elements: Fire, Water, Air and Earth.’
      • ‘It was a story he recognised could only be told in terms of the four fundamental elements: earth, air, fire, water.’
      • ‘Everything was made up of the four elements of earth, water, fire and air, and their linked qualities of cold, wet, hot and dry.’
      • ‘Alchemists believed that matter was made up of a mixture of Aristotle's elements: fire, earth, water and air.’
      • ‘The elements of earth, water, air and fire would predominate in the respective masses, making them identifiable as such.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As for us and our world, it consisted of the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water.’
      • ‘In the old world they used to talk about the four elements: 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.’
    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’
      • ‘I do believe he was in his element last night as a country singer, but his performance just really annoyed me.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Any place where politics were discussed, Gerald was in his element.’
      • ‘During the initial question time, Worth was in his element.’
      • ‘But once Jeanette took to the open road, she was in her element.’
      • ‘‘There were 200 people around him and a helicopter overhead, and we felt he was in his element,’ he said.’
      • ‘Larkham was in his element in his country's victory over Romania as he constantly probed for breaks against a brittle defence.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And when it came to the children themselves, she was in her element.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And as such I was in my element at this big screen version of the 70s crime buster series.’
      • ‘And he was in his element in the amusements, gambling away his pocket money on the slot machines and cascades.’
      • ‘She was in her element and it quickly became apparent she had abilities that were invaluable in pressing for improvements for the people.’
      • ‘After the storm, the quiet man was in his element.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      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’
    • ‘High on the chalk Downs there was no escape from the elements and within seconds ladies wearing light Summer clothing were thoroughly soaked.’
    • ‘In the first part of the second half both sides had to defy the elements of wind and rain storms.’
    • ‘Congratulations to all the runners who braved the harsh elements rain, wind and cold running the Helphire Bath Half Marathon on Sunday, March 14.’
    • ‘Palmer and his associates struggle through the elements wrapped in heavy furs, their breath freezing in the air.’
    • ‘The bloom's beauty and discreet fragrance were highly regarded, as were its protective qualities 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.’
    • ‘He is a fallen angel who can control the elements, mainly wind and ice.’
    • ‘During this time, he has learnt to respect the elements, and try to make them work in his favour.’
    • ‘It lacks shelter, though, so the five-hour walk across it can be a battle against the elements in poor weather.’
    • ‘Once more, the elements played a significant factor in this game, with Kerry again playing into the strong wind in the opening half.’
    • ‘I want to go out and brave the elements, feel the wind, rain, snow, sun, whatever's out there.’
    • ‘In the meantime, they remain at the mercy of the elements, and on rainy days, their business suffers.’
    • ‘One thing that Stearns can't control is the elements, namely the wind.’
    • ‘The overlay is resistant to exposure to the elements, including high temperatures and freeze/thaw conditions.’
    • ‘In the traditional theatre the space of separation should be open to the elements such as the wind and sunlight.’
    • ‘He then leaves the figures outside to be dried by the sun and wind, allowing the elements to intervene unpredictably in the artistic process.’
    • ‘A woman walked resolutely through the elements, hunched within her worn, sopping cloak.’
    • ‘Despite the rain and wind a good number of people braved the elements and supported the sale.’
    • ‘Tom Crean's story, a testament of human fortitude against all the elements of Antartica is brought to life in this dramatic solo performance.’
    • ‘The cages, measuring two meters by two meters, were open to the elements, letting in rain and giving no protection against the hot sun.’
    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.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Cold water travels through a pipe into the unit, and either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water only when needed.’
    • ‘It your water heater has an electrical element, electrically disconnect the heater before you drain it.’
    • ‘They can - and will need to be - repaired over and over, mostly replacing the wire heating element and thermostat.’
    • ‘The local heaters pass the air over a resistive heating element to heat the air.’
    • ‘The plate is placed on a large, flat ceramic bed that has integral electric heating elements.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The heating element had a significant amount of white hard water deposits built up on it.’
    • ‘An electric-resistance water heater has electric heating elements submerged in a storage tank.’
    • ‘There are many electrical resistance alloys used for resistance heating elements.’
    • ‘Heating elements open and close by activating the electrical foot switch.’
    • ‘The heating element includes heating segments connected together in an electric circuit.’
    • ‘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’
      • ‘I do believe he was in his element last night as a country singer, but his performance just really annoyed me.’
      • ‘Serena confirmed her position as the dominant Williams sister and Lleyton Hewitt was in his element at Wimbledon 2002.’
      • ‘Sean Egan was in his element meeting many old friends and enjoying the social side of the big occasion.’
      • ‘In the Bahamas they are out of their element, and they see needs and business needs more clearly.’
      • ‘On the other hand, Kordell Stewart looked totally confused and out of his element until the fourth quarter when the game was over.’
      • ‘The mice scattered as he approached and pounced, and before long he was in his element.’
      • ‘The crowd did its best to make him feel welcome, but Gibson was clearly out of his element.’
      • ‘He put up world class numbers because he was in his element.’
      • ‘And so I found myself in Brighton and in my 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.’


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’.