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element (n.)

c. 1300, "earth, air, fire, or water; one of the four things regarded by the ancients as the constituents of all things," from Old French element (10c.), from Latin elementum "rudiment, first principle, matter in its most basic form" (translating Greek stoikheion), origin and original sense unknown. Meaning "simplest component of a complex substance" is late 14c. Modern sense in chemistry is from 1813, but is not essentially different from the ancient one. Meaning "proper or natural environment of anything" is from 1590s, from the old notion that each class of living beings had its natural abode in one of the four elements. Elements "atmospheric force" is 1550s.

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Definitions of element

element (n.)
an abstract part of something;
the grammatical elements of a sentence
element (n.)
an artifact that is one of the individual parts of which a composite entity is made up; especially a part that can be separated from or attached to a system;
a component or constituent element of a system
Synonyms: component / constituent
element (n.)
any of the more than 100 known substances (of which 92 occur naturally) that cannot be separated into simpler substances and that singly or in combination constitute all matter;
Synonyms: chemical element
element (n.)
the most favorable environment for a plant or animal;
water is the element of fishes
element (n.)
one of four substances thought in ancient and medieval cosmology to constitute the physical universe;
the alchemists believed that there were four elements
element (n.)
the situation in which you are happiest and most effective;
in your element
element (n.)
a straight line that generates a cylinder or cone;
From wordnet.princeton.edu