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 Officers are supposed to weigh the danger to the community, the likelihood of being able to apprehend the person at a later time, and the availability of air support. Justin Fenton,, "Baltimore police recklessly chased a stolen car, causing crash that killed an innocent motorist, lawsuit says," 20 Apr. 2021 Police body camera footage appeared to show Wright getting out of an SUV and then getting back in as officers tried to apprehend him. NBC News, "Mother of Daunte Wright's child expresses grief that he will grow up without his father," 16 Apr. 2021 As officers tried to apprehend him, Wright slipped back into the driver’s door, which is when officer Kimberly Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, fired one round, which hit him. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, "More than 60 arrested following Daunte Wright protest," 14 Apr. 2021 However, the officer was able to apprehend the Brooklyn resident. John Benson, cleveland, "Police arrest resident after watching him fire gun from his vehicle: Brooklyn Police Blotter," 24 Mar. 2021 The officer gave chase and was able to apprehend Fontanez-Marrero, who resisted arrest, officials said. Clifford Ward,, "Beach Park man charged in beating, choking and threatening of girlfriend, authorities say," 15 Mar. 2021 The information led police to apprehend Orosco five days after the shooting on Feb. 25. Emily Wilder, The Arizona Republic, "Roommates walking with UA student killed on campus say teens taunted them before shooting," 3 Mar. 2021 The cops were eventually able to apprehend Chenoweth shortly after 10 p.m. Paul Best, Fox News, "Arkansas cops arrest man for abducting baby from scene of triple homicide," 25 Feb. 2021 The police were able to apprehend Hawkins after Pena took him to the ground. Abigail Rosenthal, Chron, "This Lake Jackson mom belongs in the NFL after tackling an accused peeper," 11 Feb. 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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for apprehend

Last Updated

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Apprehend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 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

Comments on apprehend

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