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 Authorities on Thursday identified the Oregon State Police troopers who used deadly force while apprehending a homicide suspect last week on Interstate 84. oregonlive, "Authorities ID troopers who used deadly force while apprehending homicide suspect on I-84," 21 May 2020 Roughly 80% of those apprehended near the U.S.-Mexico border since the order took effect have been turned back within two hours, Homeland Security officials have said. Camilo Montoya-galvez, CBS News, "U.S. extends stringent border restrictions indefinitely, citing ongoing coronavirus threat," 19 May 2020 By late February, Cuomo seemed to have begun apprehending the growing threat. Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, "Two Coasts. One Virus. How New York Suffered Nearly 10 Times the Number of Deaths as California.," 16 May 2020 Last year, Justice was also part of the team that helped apprehend two suspects in an Oconomowoc standoff that shut down Interstate 94. Evan Frank, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The Waukesha County K-9 injured during a standoff last year who earned the nickname 'Hollywood' has retired," 12 May 2020 The 31-year-old man, apprehended last week along with three Mexican nationals on suspicion of illegally crossing the border, was quarantined near Calexico, California, after displaying flu-like symptoms, according to Fox News. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Indian man apprehended at southern border tests positive for coronavirus," 1 May 2020 And yet, Al Qasimi’s series is primarily about shopping: the randomized allure of browsing local inventory, the troubling thrill of apprehending an image. Zack Hatfield, The New York Review of Books, "Farah Al Qasimi and the Beguiling Everyday," 1 May 2020 Now that future is changing in ways none of us can really apprehend. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, "How the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Shattered the Myth of College in America," 28 Apr. 2020 The unit, which typically apprehends parole absconders and prisoners who escape, is made up of former officers. Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, "2nd Michigan prisoner with coronavirus dies; total cases climb to 262," 8 Apr. 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

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Apprehend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 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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