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 Two Baltimore, Maryland, police officers were shot Tuesday morning while trying to apprehend a murder suspect, according to authorities. Emily Shapiro, ABC News, 13 July 2021 Officers might deploy gas or use other tactics to try to apprehend the man, and police asked those nearby to follow their instructions, including evacuating if necessary. Anchorage Daily News, 17 June 2021 But the feds did not apprehend or even identify the perpetrators. Eric Zorn,, 8 June 2021 The blame for the no-camera policy appears to fall squarely on the U.S. Marshals Service, the federal agency in charge of a special task force effort to apprehend Smith. Editorial Board, Star Tribune, 8 June 2021 The officer was subsequently suspended, and Salt Lake City suspended its use of police dogs to apprehend suspects. Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, 12 May 2021 In the moment, Detective Cheung made no move to apprehend Mr. Harper, who is Black. New York Times, 29 Apr. 2021 Gonzalez’s death occurred a day before the jury reached a guilty verdict in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who used similar techniques while trying to apprehend George Floyd, who died in his custody. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, 28 Apr. 2021 The advocates who proposed the petition, however, noted that China’s efforts to apprehend Uyghur individuals also extended to Cambodia and Tajikistan, which are both parties to the ICC. Jimmy Quinn, National Review, 4 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for apprehend

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

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Last Updated

2 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Apprehend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Aug. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on apprehend

Nglish: Translation of apprehend for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of apprehend for Arabic Speakers


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