Is there any difference between composite and compound? Are these words synonyms?

  • 1
    In chemistry, they are not synonyms. Can you give a little more context or the sentences in which you're wanting to use them?
    – JLG
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 1:22
  • 1
    I'm not thinking on chemistry context. It is more a computer science context, for example an operation that consists of other simpler operations, is a composite operation or a compound operation? I'm not sure which one sounds better and why... Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 1:31
  • 1
    @CarlosLoth, Like in this article? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compound_key (It says compound and composite keys are different.)
    – JLG
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 4:08
  • This article compares composites, compounds and alloys, with great definitions and illustrations: msestudent.com/…
    – Inigo
    Commented Sep 22, 2023 at 14:59

4 Answers 4


Composite are engineered materials made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties and which remain separate and distinct on a macroscopic level within the finished structure.

A compound is a substance consisting of two or more different elements chemically bonded together in a fixed proportion by mass and it is a substance that can be split up into simpler substances.

Yes, they are synonyms.

  • Could do with some sources here. I'm sure definitions with subtle differences could also be found.
    – Sz.
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 12:39

It is a debatable subject. I have had many composite and compound crossbows and bows.

Composite is something that is made from two or more materials usually for extra strength, flexibility or durability, e.g. when they put a plaster cast on a broken limb it is made from plaster (or a similar substance) and bandage. The bandage alone is not strong enough on its own to hold the bone it place to heal and the plaster is to brittle to last the amount of time it would take for the bone to heal itself (it would simply crack and break), but fused with the fibre's of the bandage it becomes much stronger. It is macroscopic because you can see the fibres in the plaster with the naked eye as opposed to microscopic which is something that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Something that is compound is made from two or more materials that is bonded at the molecular level, e.g. one of my bows is made from carbon and aluminium but to the naked eye it looks like it is made out of a single material because they are bonded at a microscopic level.

English is a debatable language, the meaning, spelling and use of grammar and Punctuation of many words is still hotly debated, e.g. Non debatable (I now, ironic isn't it!), Nondebatable and Non-debatable

As long as you are consistent throughout your work, e.g. if you used 23 in a sentence and then later used *forty-one it would be wrong, you must put **41 or Change the 23 to twenty-three.

Material sourced from: myself.


The usual usage in IT is “compound statement”. You won’t be prosecuted for using composite. In IT compounding operations and variables “build up” the statement. Composite doesn’t cover that meaning.

  • What would you say if it was not an operation, but a structure, like "composite app", or page? (I know "compound document" is a thing, but also feel "composite" to be kinda natural in this context.)
    – Sz.
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 12:43

The difference is, compound can be a verb. Composite can only be a noun or an adjective.

  • 1
    Several dictionaries report verb senses of composite (meaning “to make a composite”). Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 23:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.