/el"euh meuhnt/ , n.
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. Chem. one of a class of substances that cannot be separated into simpler substances by chemical means. See also chart under periodic table .
3. a natural habitat, sphere of activity, environment, etc.: to be in one's element; Water is the element of fish.
4. elements ,
a. atmospheric agencies or forces; weather: a ruddy complexion from exposure to the elements.
b. the rudimentary principles of an art, science, etc.: the elements of grammar.
c. 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.
a. an infinitesimal part of a given quantity, similar in nature to it.
b. an entity that satisfies all the conditions of belonging to a given set.
8. Geom. one of the points, lines, planes, or other geometrical forms, of which a figure is composed.
9. Astron. 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. Elect. an electric device with terminals for connection to other electrical devices.
11. Radio. one of the electrodes in a vacuum tube.
12. Astrol. 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. Gram. any word, part of a word, or group of words that recurs in various contexts in a language with relatively constant meaning.
[ 1250-1300; ME ( elementum one of the four elements, letter of the alphabet, first principle, rudiment ]
Syn . 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: a new component for the stereo system. 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.