ap·​pre·​hend | \ˌa-pri-ˈhend \
apprehended; apprehending; apprehends

Definition of apprehend 

transitive verb

1 : arrest, seize apprehend a thief

2a : to become aware of : perceive She immediately apprehended the problem.

b : to anticipate especially with anxiety, dread, or fear

3 : to grasp with the understanding : recognize the meaning of

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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

The sheriff's office said the second suspect who fled from the vehicle was apprehended by Deputy Rob Wilkins and K9 Knox. Nicole Darrah, Fox News, "Florida K9 sinks teeth into escaping suspect on video," 6 Sep. 2018 Minneapolis police said the alleged rape occurred Friday morning at 1 a.m. Mr. Liu was apprehended Friday evening. Liza Lin, WSJ, " Founder Liu Had Been Arrested on Suspicion of Rape," 4 Sep. 2018 In all, 54 people were apprehended in the latest incident, federal officials said at a news conference Wednesday. Jacob Beltran, San Antonio Express-News, "Neighbors describe chaotic scene after more than 50 immigrants found in truck," 13 June 2018 Hughes was apprehended after a passport fraud investigation, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations said in a statement. CBS News, "Neighbors stunned after "pleasant" man revealed to be long-missing Air Force officer," 12 June 2018 The statement also notes that in addition to the one fatality, three immigrants were later apprehended. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "An Unarmed Guatemalan Woman Was Killed by U.S. Border Patrol," 26 May 2018 The child, who is under the age of five, had been with a parent who was apprehended at the border on an outstanding warrant by the U.S. Marshals Service. Graham Kates, CBS News, "Child who may be American, separated from mom at border, has been in federal custody since 2015," 13 July 2018 According to police, Baltimore and a male suspect, who was not apprehended, were accused of stealing $1,260 worth of merchandise from a store in the 200 block of Golf Mill Center before fleeing the area in a car. Pioneer Press,, "Thieves steal merchandise from retailer, cause 3-car collision during police pursuit: Niles police," 9 July 2018 The new request comes addition to the plans to house as many as 20,000 immigrant children at Defense Department facilities who are apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border without an adult relative or are separated from parents. Philip Elliott, Time, "The U.S. Military Is Preparing to Hold 32,000 Immigrants in Detention Centers," 29 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'apprehend.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of apprehend

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

History and Etymology for apprehend

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

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Statistics for apprehend

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for apprehend

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

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More Definitions for apprehend



English Language Learners Definition of apprehend

of police : to arrest (someone) for a crime : to catch (a criminal or suspect)

: to notice and understand (something)


ap·​pre·​hend | \ˌa-pri-ˈhend \
apprehended; apprehending

Kids Definition of apprehend

1 : arrest entry 1 sense 1 Police apprehended the burglar.

2 : to look forward to with fear and uncertainty … there was no need of all this caution from the enemies that I apprehended danger from.— Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

3 : understand sense 1 apprehend the meaning


transitive verb
ap·​pre·​hend | \ˌa-prə-ˈhend \

Legal Definition of apprehend 

: arrest

History and Etymology for apprehend

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

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Comments on apprehend

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


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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