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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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 But the main source of apprehension is simply the nature of Palantir’s work. Michael Steinberger, New York Times, "Does Palantir See Too Much?," 21 Oct. 2020 Investor insight: Wall Street isn't in full-blown panic mode, but the apprehension is obvious Friday as traders ramp up selling. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "Wall Street has urgent questions about Trump's diagnosis," 2 Oct. 2020 Early this week, the major apprehension in Green Bay was: Can the Packers control both Ngakoue and Hunter? Star Tribune, "Mike Zimmer's lies about Danielle Hunter injury shake out in Vikings' favor," 11 Sep. 2020 For the first demonstration, Smoke placed an arm guard on Kerin for a standard apprehension. Jamie Landers, The Arizona Republic, "Groundbreaking for new Phoenix police K-9 facility highlights modern, recreational features," 26 Aug. 2020 The reasons for apprehension vary, and a mother’s family history is considered in the assessment. Annie Hylton, Longreads, "Searching For Mackie," 10 Aug. 2020 That apprehension starts with the company that plays a major role in, quite literally, keeping Indy cars rolling through the season. Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, "The reasoning behind IndyCar's preferred 14-race 2020 schedule: 'It was a good compromise'," 9 Aug. 2020 An apprehension without a warrant is made because a person presents an imminent danger to himself or others. Teri Webster, Dallas News, "Richardson police to form mental health crisis team," 23 Sep. 2020 Amongst the euro zone’s laggards, the most concern surrounds Italy, where anxiety over the country’s finances is matched by apprehension over what an Italian crisis could mean for the euro zone as a whole. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The EU’s Slow, Sneaky Attempt to Engineer a Fiscal Union," 18 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for apprehension

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for apprehension

Last Updated

26 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Apprehension.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for apprehension


How to pronounce apprehension (audio)

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

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