Definition for EL'E-MENT

EL'E-MENT, n. [L. elementum; Fr. element; It. and Sp. elemento; Arm. elfenn; W. elven, or elvyz. This word Owen refers to elv or el, a moving principle, that which has in itself the power of motion; and el is also a spirit or angel, which seems to be the Sax. ├Žlf, an elf. Vossius assigns elementum, to eleo, for oleo, to grow. See Elf.]

  1. The first or constituent principle or minutest part of any thing; as, the elements of earth, water, salt or wood; the elements of the world; the elements of animal or vegetable bodies. So letters are called the elements of language.
  2. An ingredient; a constituent part of any composition.
  3. In a chimical sense, an atom; the minutest particle of a substance; that which can not be divided by chimical analysis, and therefore considered as a simple substance, as oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, &c. An element is strictly the last result of chimical analysis; that which can not be decomposed by any means now employed. An atom is the last result of mechanical division; that which can not be any farther divided without decomposition; hence there may be both elementary and compound atoms.
  4. In the plural, the first rules or principles of an art or science; rudiments; as, the elements of geometry; the elements of music; the elements of painting; the elements of a theory.
  5. In popular language, fire, air, earth and water, are called the four elements, as formerly it was supposed that these are simple bodies, of which the world is composed. Later discoveries prove air, earth and water to be compound bodies, and fire to be only the extrication of light and heat during combustion.
  6. Element, in the singular, is sometimes used for the air. Shak.
  7. The substance which forms the natural or most suitable habitation of an animal. Water is the proper element of fishes; air, of man. Hence,
  8. The proper state or sphere of any thing; the state of things suited to one's temper or habits. Faction is the element of a demagogue.
  9. The matter or substances which compose the world. The elements shall melt with fervent heat. 2 Pet. iii.
  10. The outline or sketch; as, the elements of a plan.
  11. Moving cause or principle; that which excites action. Passions, the elements of life. Pope. Elements, in the plural, the bread and wine used in the eucharist.

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