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

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 Police were unable to apprehend the driver but his car was seized by the North Royalton Police Department. Brian Lisik, cleveland, 18 July 2022 Rather than fixate on strict, formulaic racial categories, many contemporary scientists are trying instead to apprehend human movement and human ecosystems. Wired, 14 July 2022 The cops were driving with lights and siren activated to help another officer apprehend five individuals allegedly involved in a carjacking who reportedly fled on foot after a short pursuit. Jay R. Jordan, Chron, 12 July 2022 Officials ran to apprehend the shooter, who appeared to be positioned behind Abe. Julia Mio Inuma, Washington Post, 8 July 2022 Police had arrived in time to apprehend two of the four men who were attempting to break in. Alex Morris, Rolling Stone, 8 July 2022 Police arrested a relative of Breonna Taylor's and seek to apprehend Jacob Blake's father following protests in northwest Ohio over the killing of Black motorist Jayland Walker, family and officials said Thursday. Deon J. Hampton, NBC News, 7 July 2022 Mexico militarized its approach to migration, deploying thousands of troops to its southern frontier to apprehend Central Americans, and north, to coordinate with U.S. border forces. New York Times, 1 July 2022 The operation to apprehend Armstrong involved members of the U.S. Marshals Office of International Operations, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, along with Costa Rican authorities. Chris Harris,, 30 June 2022 See More

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.

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 2022

Cite this Entry

“Apprehend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for apprehend


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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