ap·​pre·​hen·​sion | \ˌa-pri-ˈhen(t)-shən \

Definition of apprehension 

1 : suspicion or fear especially of future evil : foreboding an atmosphere of nervous apprehension

2 : seizure by legal process : arrest apprehension of a criminal

3a : the act or power of perceiving or comprehending something a person of dull apprehension

b : the result of apprehending something mentally : conception according to popular apprehension

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Latin Helps Build Apprehension

The Latin verb prehendere really grabs our attention. It means "to grasp" or "to seize," and it is an ancestor of various English words. It teamed up with the prefix ad- (which takes the form ap- before p and means "to," "toward," or "near") to form apprehendere, the Latin predecessor of our words apprehension, apprehend, and apprehensive. When prehendere joined the prefix com- ("with," "together," "jointly"), Latin got comprehendere, and English eventually got comprehend, comprehension, and comprehensive. Prehendere also gave us the words comprise, prehensile ("adapted for seizing or grasping"), prison, reprehend, and reprise, among others.

Examples of apprehension in a Sentence

The thought of moving to a new city fills me with apprehension. an increased number of apprehensions

Recent Examples on the Web

Change expected after order Experts said the shift in prosecutions is to be expected, given the policy change: Mexicans make up a majority of Border Patrol apprehensions of people traveling alone. Brad Heath, azcentral, "Mexicans a bigger share of border prosecutions since Trump ended family separations," 10 July 2018 But there was a lot of apprehension from both the House of Xtravaganza and my family, so my family’s not on speaking terms with the House of Xtravaganza. Rebecca Schiller, Billboard, "Venus Xtravaganza's Nephew on Her Legacy: 'She Never Envisioned Herself Becoming a Transgender Martyr'," 25 June 2018 Gendron said she was met with curiosity and a bit of apprehension. Ethan May, Indianapolis Star, "Another dockless scooter service launching Saturday in Indianapolis," 22 June 2018 But Groff’s writing is so evocative and so sharp that Florida’s sense of apprehension becomes intoxicating. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "Florida, Full of Dread," 14 June 2018 Ronin served the County of Sacramento for 9 years and was responsible for hundreds of apprehensions. Benjy Egel, sacbee, "Former Sacramento County sheriff's K-9 Ronin dies 8 months into retirement | The Sacramento Bee," 22 May 2018 Joshua Heredia, 25, of Manchester, was charged with second-degree assault, riot, simple assault, and hindering apprehension. Laney Ruckstuhl,, "2 Manchester, N.H. officers hurt after men spark riot outside bar," 11 May 2018 As accounts of the shooting and its aftermath arrived, one detail stood out: The suspect was uncooperative after apprehension, and the county police used facial-recognition technology to identify him. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "What the Capital Gazette Shooting Reveals About Face Recognition," 29 June 2018 Cave rescuers in the Southeast have watched with apprehension and relief as the 12 boys trapped in a Thailand cavern have been extricated, one by one. Bo Emerson, ajc, "Cave rescuers in Southeast watch their Thai colleagues with admiration," 10 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'apprehension.' 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 apprehension

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3a

History and Etymology for apprehension

Middle English, from Late Latin apprehension-, apprehensio, from Latin apprehendere — see apprehend

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Last Updated

12 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for apprehension

The first known use of apprehension was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for apprehension


ap·​pre·​hen·​sion | \ˌa-pri-ˈhen-shən \

Kids Definition of apprehension

2 : fear of or uncertainty about what may be coming They approached the old house with apprehension.

3 : an understanding of something apprehension of the poem's message


ap·​pre·​hen·​sion | \ˌa-pri-ˈhen-chən \

Legal Definition of apprehension 

: arrest

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Comments on apprehension

What made you want to look up apprehension? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


obstinately defiant of authority

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