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 said that Talbot flew to the Philippines ahead of the baby's birth and took the child from the city of Davao to Manila, where she was eventually apprehended. The Washington Post, al, "American caught with baby in bag at Phillipines airport charged with human trafficking," 5 Sep. 2019 Dylan called authorities in Minnesota moments before he was apprehended in Mexico. Chris Harris,, "After Deaths of Former NFL Player and Wife, Their 22-Year-Old Son Is Arrested in Mexico," 26 Aug. 2019 But if families try to leave, officials said, they could be apprehended for being in the United States illegally., "The ICE chief called family detention ‘summer camp. Here’s what it looks like inside," 25 Aug. 2019 At issue in this specific appeal are the conditions under which children are housed, sometimes for weeks, in holding cells at border patrol stations in Texas after they are apprehended. Fortune, "Court Dismisses Trump Admin’s Argument That Detained Child Migrants Don’t Require Personal Hygiene Items," 15 Aug. 2019 She was apprehended on Wednesday and transferred to a detention center in Louisiana. Richard Fausset, New York Times, "After ICE Raids, the Parking Lot Was Crowded, but No One Was There to Work," 9 Aug. 2019 He was apprehended on June 7 by authorities in Thailand and transported to Seattle, where U.S. Marshals arrested him on July 15, court records show. Daily Pilot, "H.B. man pleads not guilty to fentanyl distribution; authorities allege he fled to Thailand before recapture," 8 Aug. 2019 Reynolds and the woman both got out of the vehicle before they were apprehended by Lakewood police, Romero said. Saja Hindi, The Denver Post, "Suspect accused of firing shots at Denver officer arrested following chase through Lakewood to Jefferson County," 8 Aug. 2019 Foley’s mother learned from his colleagues the next morning that he’d been apprehended by a jihadist group. Eric Tucker,, "Journalist’s death leads to reshaping of US handling of hostages," 5 Aug. 2019

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

13 Oct 2019

Cite this Entry

“Apprehend.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 November 2019.

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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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