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Borrowed from Old French apprehender (compare modern French appréhender), from Latin apprehendere. Compare Spanish aprehender.


  • (US) IPA(key): /æ.pɹiˈhɛnd/
  • Rhymes: -ɛnd
  • (file)


apprehend (third-person singular simple present apprehends, present participle apprehending, simple past and past participle apprehended)

  1. (transitive, archaic) To take or seize; to take hold of.
    • 1650, Jeremy Taylor, Of Contentedness
      We have two hands to apprehend it.
    1. (transitive, law enforcement) To take or seize (a person) by legal process; to arrest.
      Officers apprehended the suspect two streets away from the bank.
  2. (transitive) To take hold of with the understanding, that is, to conceive in the mind; to become cognizant of; to understand; to recognize; to consider.
    • 1639, Thomas Fuller, The Historie of the Holy Warre
      This suspicion of Earl Reimund, though at first but a buzz, soon got a sting in the king's head, and he violently apprehended it.
    • 1858, William Ewart Gladstone, Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age
      The eternal laws, such as the heroic age apprehended them.
    • 1922, Carl Becker, The Declaration of Independence, page 221:
      Jefferson apprehended the injustice of slavery; but one is inclined to ask how deeply he felt it.
  3. (transitive) To anticipate; especially, to anticipate with anxiety, dread, or fear; to fear.
  4. (intransitive) To think, believe, or be of opinion; to understand; to suppose.
  5. (intransitive) To be apprehensive; to fear.
    • (Can we date this quote by Rowe and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      It is worse to apprehend than to suffer.

Usage notes[edit]

To apprehend, comprehend. These words come into comparison as describing acts of the mind. Apprehend denotes the laying hold of a thing mentally, so as to understand it clearly, at least in part. Comprehend denotes the embracing or understanding it in all its compass and extent. We may apprehend many truths which we do not comprehend. The very idea of God supposes that He may be apprehended, though not comprehended, by rational beings. We may apprehend much of Shakespeare's aim and intention in the character of Hamlet or King Lear; but few will claim that they have comprehended all that is embraced in these characters. --Trench.
(material dates from 1913)


Derived terms[edit]