Printable Version
Pronunciation: æ-pri-hend Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. (Obsolete) To seize, grasp, catch. 2. To grasp with the mind, perceive, to become conscious of. 3. To catch, arrest, take into custody.

Notes: This word is so close to comprehend in meaning that many speakers use them interchangeably. Apprehend, however, simply means to perceive something; comprehend, on the other hand, means to understand it as well as it may be understood. It comes with two adjectives, apprehensible and apprehensive. The latter may also mean "anticipating fearfully". The noun is apprehension, which also may be used in the odd adjectival sense.

In Play: Here is a sentence that exemplifies the difference between apprehend and comprehend: "There are things we apprehend that we do not comprehend." Here is another: "Maud Lynn Dresser could apprehend her situation, but not comprehend it, so she knew not how to respond."

Word History: This word came to us via French from Latin apprehendere "grasp, take hold of", comprising an assimilated form of ad "(up)to" + prehendere "to seize", also the source of prehensile. Prehendere in Proto-Indo-European was ghe(n)d-"seize, take". Notice it had a Fickle N. English inherited this word through its Germanic ancestors without the N as get and guess, another way of getting something. Guess was borrowed from Swedish, a Germanic cousin of English. (Now it is time to thank Perry Lassiter for recommending these two Good Words, the distinction between which is often not comprehended.)

Dr. Goodword,

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