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From Middle High German begrifen, from Old High German bigrīfan, from Proto-Germanic *bigrīpaną, equivalent to be- +‎ greifen.


  • IPA(key): /bəˈɡʁaɪ̯fən/, [-fən], [-fn̩], [-fɱ̩]
  • (file)
  • (file)


begreifen (class 1 strong, third-person singular simple present begreift, past tense begriff, past participle begriffen, past subjunctive begriffe, auxiliary haben)

  1. (transitive) to comprehend; to grasp fully; to conceive
    Der menschliche Verstand kann die Ewigkeit nicht wirklich begreifen.
    The human mind cannot really comprehend eternity.
  2. (transitive, rather formal) to understand intellectually
    Ich begreife nicht, wie das geschehen konnte.
    I don’t understand how that could have happened.
  3. (transitive or reflexive, rather formal) to consider (to be); to see (as)
    • 2010, Der Spiegel, issue 33/2010, page 71:
      Betroffen sind nun vor allem auch die gutausgebildeten und bislang gutverdienenden Leute. Diejenigen, die sich als solide Mittelklasse begreifen.
      Also affected are now especially the well-educated and so far well-paid people. The ones that see themselves as solid middle class.



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