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 Weeks after George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police spurred a nationwide racial uprising, a new video clip shows an Allentown, Pennsylvania, police officer attempting to apprehend a man by holding his knee to his neck. Brianna Provenzano,, "A New Video Of Police Kneeing A Man’s Neck Has Protestors Demanding Justice," 13 July 2020 Battiste, meanwhile, said that the police department does not teach the chokehold to apprehend suspects. al, "Mobile officials begin examining police policies and procedures in aftermath of George Floyd killing," 10 July 2020 Joanna and Billy head to trial against ClearDawn labs while trying to expose the fraudulent science used to wrongfully apprehend children. Nina Zafar, Washington Post, "What to watch on Thursday: ‘Close Enough’ on HBO Max," 9 July 2020 The lawsuit described efforts to apprehend them from December 2019 to March — none resulting in leaving the residence. Christopher Brito, CBS News, "Warrant used in fatal encounter between Breonna Taylor and police was linked to Louisville gentrification plan, family's lawyers claim," 7 July 2020 The police were called, and in their efforts to apprehend him, Chauvin, who is white, applied pressure to the back of Floyd's neck with his knee for nearly nine minutes. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, "Three other officers involved in George Floyd arrest to face charges," 3 June 2020 The only use of force specified in this report was one officer who used a baton to break the vehicle's driver side window to apprehend the suspect. Keith Allen, CNN, "Ex-officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks was involved in a 2015 shooting that is still under review," 23 June 2020 Salazar said the policy now has fallen out of favor and doesn’t take into account a wide range of factors that could warrant using a less-deadly alternative to apprehend a suspect. Emilie Eaton,, "Bexar County Sheriff’s Office will review its use-of-force policies following police killings in Atlanta, Minneapolis," 22 June 2020 The suspect ran away down a set of stairs following the attack, and police are asking for the public's help in order to apprehend him. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Police ask for public's help finding man who allegedly punched 73-year-old woman in face," 20 June 2020

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for apprehend

Last Updated

20 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Apprehend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for apprehend


How to pronounce apprehend (audio)

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

History and Etymology for apprehend

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

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