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understanding (countable and uncountable, plural understandings) (with of, but with for in sense of "sympathy")

  1. (gerund, uncountable) The act of one that understands or comprehends; comprehension; knowledge; discernment.
  2. (countable) Reason or intelligence; ability to grasp the full meaning of knowledge; ability to infer.
  3. (countable) Opinion, judgement, or outlook.
    • 2013 August 3, “The machine of a new soul”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8847:
      The yawning gap in neuroscientists’ understanding of their topic is in the intermediate scale of the brain’s anatomy. Science has a passable knowledge of how individual nerve cells, known as neurons, work. It also knows which visible lobes and ganglia of the brain do what. But how the neurons are organised in these lobes and ganglia remains obscure.
    According to my understanding, the situation is quite perilous. I wonder if you see it this way, too.
  4. (countable) An agreement of minds; harmony; something mutually understood or agreed upon.
    1. An informal contract; a mutual agreement.
      I thought we had an understanding - you do the dishes, and I throw the trash.
    2. A reconciliation of differences.
      The parties of the negotiation have managed to come to an understanding.
  5. (uncountable) Sympathy.
    He showed much understanding for my problems when he heard about my past.

Derived terms[edit]


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See also[edit]


understanding (comparative more understanding, superlative most understanding)

  1. Showing compassion, tolerance, and forbearance.
  2. (dated) Knowing; skilful.




  1. present participle and gerund of understand
    • 2013 June 7, David Simpson, “Fantasy of navigation”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 188, number 26, page 36:
      It is tempting to speculate about the incentives or compulsions that might explain why anyone would take to the skies in [the] basket [of a balloon]: […];  […]; or perhaps to muse on the irrelevance of the borders that separate nation states and keep people from understanding their shared environment.