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).


deserving imitation because of excellence

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

reduce disapprove soothe perplex
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


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