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

In addition to the large number of children and family units, authorities also apprehended more than 36,000 single adults. Camilo Montoya-galvez, CBS News, "Border apprehensions of migrant families and children continue to skyrocket in May," 5 June 2019 About 64 percent of those apprehended crossing the southwest border illegally in May were members of families. Paul Ratje/afp Via Getty Images, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Southwest border apprehensions reach 13-year high," 5 June 2019 Before the suspect was apprehended, Monroe said they were seen throwing a firearm from a bridge overpass onto Interstate 83. Phil Davis,, "Baltimore police: Suspect fled arrest, threw gun onto I-83, leading to closure," 5 June 2019 Police then apprehended three teenagers, two of them 15 years old and the other 14, records said. Elliot Hughes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A month after five cars were stolen from a West Allis dealership, five more have been stolen from another shop," 4 June 2019 During this time, officers from other agencies entered the school and tried to rescue victims and apprehend the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Greg Hanlon,, "Parkland School Officer Arrested, Accused of 'Complete Inaction' in Shooting that Killed 17," 4 June 2019 Gypsy Rose was gone, though she was later apprehended. Alexis Jones, Marie Claire, "How True Is 'The Act'? The Hulu Series' Backstory Is Chilling," 20 Mar. 2019 As additional officers arrived at the scene, a man was spotted fleeing from the vacant building but authorities were not able to apprehend him. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "2 Pennsylvania police officers injured in shooting while responding to false report of abduction," 2 Oct. 2018 The suspect, who has been identified as Jarrod W. Ramos by AP, was apprehended by police and taken into custody Thursday. Eli Meixler, Time, "These Are the Victims of the Capital Gazette Shooting," 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

9 Jun 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).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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