ap·​pre·​hend ˌa-pri-ˈhend How to pronounce apprehend (audio)
apprehended; apprehending; apprehends

transitive verb

: arrest, seize
apprehend a thief
: to become aware of : perceive
She immediately apprehended the problem.
: to anticipate especially with anxiety, dread, or fear
: to grasp with the understanding : recognize the meaning of

Did you know?

To apprehend is to seize, either physically or mentally. So to apprehend a thief is to nab him. But to apprehend a confusing news story, or to apprehend a difficult concept in physics, is to understand it—that is, to "grasp" it mentally. If you're apprehensive about something that's about to happen, it means you've grasped all the unpleasant possibilities and are waiting with anxiety or dread.

Examples of apprehend in a Sentence

Within hours, police had apprehended the thief. subtle differences that are difficult to apprehend
Recent Examples on the Web He has not been apprehended and is ordered held without bail. Meredith Colias-Pete, Chicago Tribune, 11 Sep. 2023 After initially announcing that Mr. Khalife had been arrested there, the police later revised their account and said that he had been apprehended in Northolt, about 12 miles from the prison, after a plainclothes officer pulled him off a bicycle on a canal towpath. Mark Landler, New York Times, 9 Sep. 2023 The actual culprits were later found and apprehended in the restaurant’s bathroom. Carl Lamarre, Billboard, 31 Aug. 2023 The juveniles, two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old, were apprehended shortly before 10 p.m. at 38 Crestwood Park, police said. Travis Andersen,, 31 Aug. 2023 The federal agency disclosed Tuesday that an unnamed 29-year-old woman died Monday afternoon, roughly 20 hours after being apprehended by agents in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Anna Giaritelli, Washington Examiner, 30 Aug. 2023 Police, however, after a short foot chase, were able to apprehend the suspect. cleveland, 26 Aug. 2023 The man, who is in his 30s, was apprehended August 16 near Incheon, on South Korea’s west coast near to the capital Seoul, the Incheon Coast Guard said in a news release Sunday. Yoonjung Seo, CNN, 23 Aug. 2023 According to Chief of Police Brian James, Qi was apprehended at 2:31 p.m. local time. Celeste McCauley, Peoplemag, 30 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'apprehend.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Latin apprehendere, literally, to seize, from ad- + prehendere to seize — more at get

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of apprehend was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near apprehend

Cite this Entry

“Apprehend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


ap·​pre·​hend ˌap-ri-ˈhend How to pronounce apprehend (audio)
: arrest entry 1 sense 2
apprehend a burglar
: to look forward to with fear and uncertainty

Legal Definition


transitive verb
ap·​pre·​hend ˌa-prə-ˈhend How to pronounce apprehend (audio)
: arrest

Latin apprehendere to seize, arrest, from ad to + prehendere to seize

More from Merriam-Webster on apprehend

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