ap·​pre·​hen·​sion ˌa-pri-ˈhen(t)-shən How to pronounce apprehension (audio)
: suspicion or fear especially of future evil : foreboding
an atmosphere of nervous apprehension
: seizure by legal process : arrest
apprehension of a criminal
: the act or power of perceiving or comprehending something
a person of dull apprehension
: 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 In one report, from Aug. 10, officers discuss the apprehension and arrest of three suspects who allegedly stole multiple Stihl chainsaws from GLO sites. Sarah Rumpf-Whitten, Fox News, 20 Sep. 2023 Texas Department of Public Safety speaks out on migrant abuse allegations Border Patrol Tucson Sector Chief John Modlin posted on X, the company formerly known as Twitter, on Friday that there had been 13,000 apprehensions last week. Armando Garcia, ABC News, 19 Sep. 2023 After dropping to a two-year low in June, apprehensions of migrants rose by 33% in July and continued to increase in August, according to public and internal Border Patrol data. Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, 14 Sep. 2023 After discussing his apprehension toward sharing his address, the musician eventually shared it with the cop, who then took off the handcuffs. Jack Irvin, Peoplemag, 8 Sep. 2023 But, in spite of their communal apprehension, none of the competitors project it onto one another. Lauren Puckett-Pope, ELLE, 31 Aug. 2023 Researchers noted the number is likely higher now, given the record high levels of migrant apprehensions reported along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2021 and 2022. Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, 15 Sep. 2023 After dipping briefly this year, migrant apprehensions at the American border have risen again, with a record number of families crossing. Julie Turkewitz Federico Rios, New York Times, 14 Sep. 2023 The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-2 to approve a new set of rules for private-equity firms and hedge funds, which Wall Street had been awaiting with apprehension for 18 months. Chris Cumming, WSJ, 23 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'apprehension.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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


Dictionary Entries Near apprehension

Cite this Entry

“Apprehension.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


ap·​pre·​hen·​sion ˌap-ri-ˈhen-chən How to pronounce apprehension (audio)
: an understanding of something
: fear of or uncertainty about what may be coming

Legal Definition


ap·​pre·​hen·​sion ˌa-pri-ˈhen-chən How to pronounce apprehension (audio)
: arrest

More from Merriam-Webster on apprehension

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