Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb, un·der·stand \ˌən-dər-ˈstand\

Simple Definition of understand

  • : to know the meaning of (something, such as the words that someone is saying or a language)

  • : to know how (something) works or happens

  • : to know how (someone) thinks, feels, or behaves

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of understand

understoodplay \-ˈstu̇d\understanding

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to grasp the meaning of <understand Russian> b :  to grasp the reasonableness of <his behavior is hard to understand> c :  to have thorough or technical acquaintance with or expertness in the practice of <understand finance> d :  to be thoroughly familiar with the character and propensities of <understands children>

  3. 2 :  to accept as a fact or truth or regard as plausible without utter certainty <we understand that he is returning from abroad>

  4. 3 :  to interpret in one of a number of possible ways

  5. 4 :  to supply in thought as though expressed <“to be married” is commonly understood after the word engaged>

  6. intransitive verb
  7. 1 :  to have understanding :  have the power of comprehension

  8. 2 :  to achieve a grasp of the nature, significance, or explanation of something

  9. 3 :  to believe or infer something to be the case

  10. 4 :  to show a sympathetic or tolerant attitude toward something

understandability play \-ˌstan-də-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun
understandable play \-ˈstan-də-bəl\ adjective

Examples of understand in a sentence

  1. I can't understand a word you're saying.

  2. I don't understand these directions.

  3. I want you to stay away from her. Do you understand?

  4. I don't understand how this is supposed to work.

  5. He doesn't really understand the situation.

  6. You should read the book in order to understand more about the subject.

  7. I can't understand why she would do such a thing.

  8. She's beginning to understand what's going on.

  9. You have to understand that I had no other choice.

  10. At first we didn't get along, but I think we understand each other now.

Origin of understand

Middle English, from Old English understandan, from under + standan to stand

First Known Use: before 12th century

Synonym Discussion of understand

understand, comprehend, appreciate mean to have a clear or complete idea of. understand and comprehend are very often interchangeable. understand may, however, stress the fact of having attained a firm mental grasp of something <orders that were fully understood and promptly obeyed>. comprehend may stress the process of coming to grips with something intellectually <I have trouble comprehending your reasons for doing this>. appreciate implies a just evaluation or judgment of a thing's value or nature <failed to appreciate the risks involved>.

UNDERSTAND Defined for Kids


verb un·der·stand \ˌən-dər-ˈstand\

Definition of understand for Students

understood \-ˈstu̇d\understanding

  1. 1 :  to get the meaning of <Do you understand my instructions?>

  2. 2 :  to know thoroughly <I understand Spanish.> <She understands the situation.>

  3. 3 :  to have reason to believe <I understand that they will come today.>

  4. 4 :  to take as meaning something not clearly made known <I understand the letter to be a refusal.>

  5. 5 :  to have a sympathetic attitude <Don't worry, I understand how you feel.>

  6. 6 :  to accept as settled <It is understood that I will pay.>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up understand? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a timid, meek, or unassertive person

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

perplex disapprove reduce soothe
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.