ap·​pre·​hen·​sion | \ ˌa-pri-ˈhen(t)-shən How to pronounce apprehension (audio) \

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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Synonyms for apprehension


alarm (also alarum), apprehensiveness, dread, foreboding, misgiving

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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

Previously, when that didn’t happen — when ICE didn’t pick up a family from Border Patrol within 72 hours of their apprehension — Border Patrol just kept holding them anyway until ICE could pick them up. Dara Lind, Vox, "Trump administration to release hundreds of immigrant families from detention," 27 Dec. 2018 The apprehensions of undocumented immigrants over 10 years would total 3,040,000 rather than an annual number of 304,000. WSJ, "Parsing the Numbers on Trump’s Border Wall," 1 Feb. 2019 The case is the first apprehension of a large-scale, high seas driftnet vessel since 2014, according to the Coast Guard's statement. Annie Zak, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska-based Coast Guard cutter detains Chinese-flagged vessel for suspected illegal fishing," 23 June 2018 The vast majority of apprehensions at the border do not include fraud. Graham Kates, CBS News, "Migrant children at the border - the facts," 19 June 2018 Until this year, apprehensions of MS-13 had declined gradually from 437 in 2014. Washington Post, "AP FACT CHECK: MS-13 gang arrests at border are up this year," 28 Apr. 2018 During the mission, known as Operation Jump Start, National Guard troops assisted in the apprehension of over 170,000 immigrants and the seizure of over 320,000 pounds of marijuana and cocaine. Maya Rhodan, Time, "President Trump Wants to Send Troops to the Border. Obama and Bush Tried That Too," 4 Apr. 2018 At its peak, in 2000, the Border Patrol made more than 1.6 million apprehensions... WSJ, "The Real Border Crisis Was Almost Two Decades Ago," 27 Feb. 2019 And for the governor to be able to appoint people to be replaced, obviously there's that apprehension by a lot of the Democratic senators and House members, too. Fox News, "West Virginia House speaker Armstead resigns to run for Supreme Court," 22 Aug. 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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Statistics for apprehension

Last Updated

16 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for apprehension

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

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More Definitions for apprehension



English Language Learners Definition of apprehension

: fear that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen : a feeling of being worried about the future
: the act of arresting someone for a crime
somewhat old-fashioned : the act of noticing and understanding something


ap·​pre·​hen·​sion | \ ˌa-pri-ˈhen-shən How to pronounce apprehension (audio) \

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 How to pronounce apprehension (audio) \

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).


to move or proceed with twists and turns

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