What does the word element mean?

Usage examples for element

  1. But then they'd probably have been spotted, and lost the precious element of surprise. – Slingshot by Irving W. Lande
  2. The existence of such an element-? – The Awkward Age by Henry James
  3. It is not the rebel element, perhaps, but the nature of things, that the South should not realize the complete overthrow of the old order and the necessity for a complete change of the domestic policy. – The Life of Lyman Trumbull by Horace White