What is a good single word noun for referring to the "whole" in a part-whole relationship?

I'm looking for a noun with a clear connotation that suggests this thing is made up of parts and/or components (without actual mention of parts etc.). I looked up synonyms of "whole" as a noun in Merriam-Webster, and got the following:

aggregate, full, sum, summation, sum total, total, totality

But they sound too abstract (just like the words "whole" or "entirety").

I also thought about the word "System", but it seems to imply too much (a complex system with structures and hierarchies etc.)

Is there a good word that's more concrete than the above-mentioned synonyms, but does not overkill as words such as "system", "organization" etc.?

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    You might also shy away from conglomerate, which ODO defines: << noun 1 A thing consisting of a number of different and distinct parts or items that are grouped together. the Earth is a specialized conglomerate of organisms >>. It is hardly in an informal register, but there is the broadening encouraged by the business usage. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 14 '18 at 0:07
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    Whole is already a single-word noun with the meaning you describe. – Lawrence Mar 14 '18 at 2:14
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    Aggregate is good in a technical context, as is assembly (particularly as the [something] assembly. Composite or the composite whole might just work, but isn't as idiomatic. – Will Crawford Mar 14 '18 at 4:33
  • assembly noun (Plural assemblies) 3.1 [count noun] A unit consisting of components that have been fitted together. ‘the tail assembly of the aircraft’ en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/assembly See also: businessdictionary.com/definition/assembly.html – Kris Mar 14 '18 at 8:28
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    Can you share the specific subject of your definition? What is “the thing”? There are often subject specific terms you might find helpful; such as a mass, a biome, a collection, a collective, a network, an amalgamation, etc. – PV22 Jul 12 '18 at 7:34

Structure seems to be the word you are looking for, Merriam Webster gives, among others, the following definitions:

the arrangement of particles or parts in a substance or body (examples: soil structure, molecular structure)

organization of parts as dominated by the general character of the whole (examples: economic structure, personality structure)

the aggregate of elements of an entity in their relationships to each other (example: the structure of a language)

Structure does not imply complexity, in fact the word is used as data structure in computer science to describe (according to the Wikipedia link):

a collection of data values, the relationships among them, and the functions or operations that can be applied to the data

Examples of data structures are (also according to the Wikipedia link):

arrays, (linked) lists, records, etc.

These structures are by no means complex, but do imply they contain data, which I think is equivalent to the parts or components in your description.


Union. "something that is made one : something formed by a combining or coalition of parts or members. MW

Hard won, the union will stand.


Among the possible options could be:

set (ODO)

      1 A group or collection of things that belong together or resemble one another or are usually found together.

syn. assemblage; system; organization; combination; complex; whole; integral; setup; aggregate/ aggregation;

unit (ODO)

      1 An individual thing or person regarded as single and complete but which can also form an individual component of a larger or more complex whole.

(especially when the "whole" could itself possibly be a part of a larger system).

"Hardware Unit: A »Hardware Unit will be realized by integrating »Hardware Components."

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