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 Over the past 21 days, Border Patrol has arrested an average of 2,500 people daily, putting it on track to apprehend more people in December than November. Anna Giaritelli, Washington Examiner, "EXCLUSIVE: Top border official says Biden plan will only delay inevitable rush of migrants," 31 Dec. 2020 The police have failed to apprehend a suspect, and Arabella imagines finding and confronting the man who raped her. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "Pop Culture Reckoned With #MeToo in Radical New Ways in 2020—Even as It Receded From Headlines," 22 Dec. 2020 But reports suggest the fighting is far from over, with the TPLF preparing for a protracted insurgency that could drag on for months or even years if Abiy’s military doesn’t manage to swiftly apprehend its leaders. Jacob Kushner, Los Angeles Times, "In Ethiopia, a Nobel Peace laureate goes to war," 6 Dec. 2020 Shoplifting has essentially been decriminalized, and retailers that apprehend thieves can be sued. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "California, the Shoplifting State," 2 Nov. 2020 Riot police were recorded using ambulances, reportedly using them to apprehend people. USA Today, "What is happening in Belarus? We explain the historic pro-democracy protests," 8 Sep. 2020 Crawford sent Kozmo, a Dutch-German Shepherd, to apprehend the suspect until additional officers could arrive. Sarah Bahari, Dallas News, "Here’s how Mesquite police dogs are working with officers to apprehend suspects," 24 Nov. 2020 When police came to apprehend Tischler, the radio host filmed his own arrest. Zach Helfand, The New Yorker, "“We Don’t Protest”: Borough Park’s Mask-Burning Demonstrators," 1 Nov. 2020 Election officials deemed the applications, which were all filled out in the same neat handwriting, as suspicious and reported them to the Broward state attorney, who then launched an investigation in August to apprehend the perpetrator. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Florida election officials foil plot to register over 50 dead people as Democratic voters," 30 Oct. 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

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Apprehend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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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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Comments on apprehend

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