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From Middle English graspen, grapsen, craspen (to grope; feel around), from Old English *grǣpsian, from Proto-West Germanic *graipisōn, from Proto-Germanic *graipisōną. Cognate with German Low German grapsen (to grab; grasp), German grapsen, Saterland Frisian Grapse (double handful), Old English grāpian ("to touch, feel, grasp"; > Modern English grope). Compare also Swedish krafsa (to scatch; scabble), Norwegian krafse (to scramble).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɡɹɑːsp/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ɡɹæsp/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æsp


grasp (third-person singular simple present grasps, present participle grasping, simple past and past participle grasped)

  1. To grip; to take hold, particularly with the hand.
  2. To understand.
    I have never been able to grasp the concept of infinity.
  3. To take advantage of something, to seize, to jump at a chance.


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grasp (plural grasps)

  1. (sometimes figuratively) Grip.
    • 1914, Louis Joseph Vance, chapter III, in Nobody, New York, N.Y.: George H[enry] Doran Company, published 1915, OCLC 40817384:
      Turning back, then, toward the basement staircase, she began to grope her way through blinding darkness, but had taken only a few uncertain steps when, of a sudden, she stopped short and for a little stood like a stricken thing, quite motionless save that she quaked to her very marrow in the grasp of a great and enervating fear.
    • 1980, Robert M. Jones, editor, Walls and Ceilings, Time-Life Books, →ISBN, page 44:
      If a mirror does slip from your grasp, do not attempt to catch it. Just get out of the way.
  2. Understanding.
    • 1859, George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, Chapter 13:
      There is for the mind but one grasp of happiness: from that uppermost pinnacle of wisdom, whence we see that this world is well designed.
  3. That which is accessible; that which is within one's reach or ability.
    The goal is within my grasp.