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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for apprehension


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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

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 Watch this apprehension that included a helicopter, a foot chase through a corn field and several bee stings. Marcos Aleman And Joshua Goodman, USA TODAY, "Families fleeing violence keep coming to US illegally despite Trump zero tolerance policy," 21 June 2018 After the Washington Redskins’ starting offense didn’t take one snap together as a complete group during the preseason, there’s reason for both apprehension and optimism going into their season opener Sept. 9 at the Arizona Cardinals. Stephen Whyno, The Seattle Times, "Week 1-ready? Redskins offense is glaring question mark," 27 Aug. 2018 Last month family units were 25% of apprehensions and unaccompanied children were another 11%. Tal Kopan, CNN, "Fact checking the Trump administration on immigration," 29 May 2018 Investors and entrepreneurs in the podcasting industry regard Luminary Media with a mix of apprehension and optimism. Benjamin Mullin, WSJ, "With $40 Million, Podcast Upstart Luminary Media Builds a Platform," 11 May 2018 Its duties include judicial and courthouse security, fugitive apprehensions and asset forfeiture. Caleb Downs, San Antonio Express-News, "Trump to nominate Susan Pamerleau for U.S. marshal," 26 Apr. 2018 Due to the size and makeup of the group, two transports were needed to move the aliens to the nearest Border Patrol station which is 90 miles away from the point of apprehension. Aaron Rupar, Vox, "Migrant girl dies in Border Patrol’s custody," 15 Dec. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about apprehension

Share apprehension

Listen to Our Podcast about apprehension

Statistics for apprehension

Last Updated

5 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for apprehension

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


the range of authority or knowledge

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!