Element, component, constituent, ingredient, factor are comparable when they mean one of the parts, substances, or principles which make up a compound or complex thing.
Element is, except in its specific sense in science, the most widely applicable of these terms, being referable both to material and immaterial and to tangible and intangible things. Always in its scientific sense, often in its general sense, the term implies irreducible simplicity or, if applied to a substance, incapacity for separation into simpler substances.
Component and constituent are often used interchangeably for any of the substances (whether elements or compounds) which enter into the makeup of a mixed thing or for any of the principles or qualities which comprise an intangible composite.
Component, however, stresses the separate identity or distinguishable character of the substance; constituent stresses its essential and formative character.
Ingredient applies basically to any of the substances or materials which when combined form a particular mixture (as a drink, a medicine, a food, an alloy, or an amalgam).
The term, however, may be extended to any component or constituent that can be thought of as added or as left out.
Factor is somewhat remotely synonymous with the foregoing words. The term is applicable to a constituent, element, or component only when the latter exerts an effectuating force enabling the whole of which it is a part to perform a certain kind of work, to produce a specific and definite result, or to move or trend in a particular direction.