ap·​pre·​hend | \ ˌa-pri-ˈhend How to pronounce apprehend (audio) \
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

Security apprehended the Richmond Heights shoplifter with more than $672 worth of items. John Benson,, "Illegally-tinted windows lead police to blunt and baggie: Brooklyn Police Blotter," 14 Aug. 2019 In the fractious battle over immigration policy, most of the attention has been directed at apprehending migrants at the southern border. Alana Semuels, Time, "Tech Companies Say it's Too Hard to Hire High-Skilled Immigrants in the U.S. — So They're Growing in Canada Instead," 25 July 2019 Eleven to twelve hundred people per day apprehended, crossing our southern border. Colin Barrett, Harper's magazine, "“Just Keep Going North”," 5 July 2019 Mozina also questioned not always immediately apprehending criminal informants, pointing to Officer Matthew Rittner's death as the consequence of relying on information from criminal informants. Talis Shelbourne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Fire and Police Commission tightens policy on police use of force," 20 June 2019 In the video, police apprehend a person who jumped out of the truck. Dallas News, "Dallas police recommend murder charge against Farmers Branch officer who shot man in stolen pickup," 19 June 2019 But the 5,200 troops deploying to the border will not be apprehending migrants. Salvador Rizzo, The Seattle Times, "Fact-checking Trump’s talk on birthright citizenship, military at the border," 31 Oct. 2018 Bounty hunters and bail bondsmen in Idaho are not sworn police officers and are not required to have any training or certification before apprehending people who have jumped bail. Ruth Brown, idahostatesman, "2 Idaho bounty hunters accused of impersonating police, then arrested by real officers," 7 June 2018 So far this year, agents have apprehended more than 390,000 migrants traveling as families along the southwestern U.S. border, according to Customs and Border Protection. Rafael Carranza, azcentral, "Sen. Kyrsten Sinema pushes program to streamline removal of migrant families without valid asylum claims," 18 July 2019

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

18 Aug 2019

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)
somewhat old-fashioned : to notice and understand (something)


ap·​pre·​hend | \ ˌa-pri-ˈhend How to pronounce apprehend (audio) \
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 How to pronounce apprehend (audio) \

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).


not constant or steady

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