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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Synonyms & Antonyms for apprehend


arrest, bust [slang], collar, nab, nail, pick up, pinch, pull in, restrain, run in, seize



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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

Local police were able to apprehend Jones; no additional delays occurred, according to Hartsfield-Jackson. Bridget Hallinan, Condé Nast Traveler, "Tuesday Was a Crazy Day for Air Travel," 27 June 2018 Kate Mitchell received the Citizen’s Award, given to someone who substantially serves the Farmington Police Department or helps to apprehend a criminal in a significant way. Hayley Harding, Courant Community, "Officers, Citizens Honored At Farmington Police Department Ceremony," 8 June 2018 However, the police were unable to apprehend the criminals during their search of the house., "Barcelona Star Gerard Pique Becomes Victim of Burglary During Trip to Visit Family," 7 June 2018 In his first attempt to apprehend Patmon, Saulters hit the curb and flattened a tire on his car. Steve Burns, ajc, "‘Justice was served’: Mother of man hit by police car glad officer was fired," 4 June 2018 The alleged shooter, later identified as James Waters, opened fire from inside the house when officers tried to apprehend the individual. Madeline Farber, Fox News, "Officers killed in the line of duty in 2018," 23 May 2018 Six people were shot, two fatally, in Memphis, Tennessee, on Sunday night, and police have yet to apprehend anyone for the rampage. Elizabeth Chuck /, NBC News, "Manhunt after six people shot, two killed, in Memphis," 7 May 2018 Because of their information, officers were able to quickly apprehend subjects that matched those descriptions. Staff Report, Elgin Courier-News, "Two Chicago men charged in shooting deaths of two Elgin men," 2 May 2018 But video showed other Sacramento cops trying to apprehend Mann peacefully before Tennis and another Sacramento cop began blasting. Marcos Bretón, sacbee, "Whom do you trust to investigate cops for Stephon Clark's death? Not Schubert," 21 Apr. 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

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

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Statistics for apprehend

Last Updated

13 Oct 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

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