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

Just around midnight the morning of July 4, 911 dispatch received a call that led to a vehicle pursuit on I-465 and a crash with a trooper, resulting in a K9 apprehension and an arrest for possession of heroin. London Gibson, Indianapolis Star, "I-465 police chase leads to crash with police car, 2 arrests," 4 July 2019 The Border Patrol made 132,887 apprehensions in May, including 84,542 adults and children traveling together. Nomaan Merchant, The Denver Post, "Government photos show detained migrants pleading for help," 2 July 2019 From January to May, total border apprehensions almost tripled, the number of unaccompanied minors more than doubled, and the number of family units more than tripled. David French, National Review, "In the New York Times, a ‘Human Rights’ Professor Calls for Mob Rule," 1 July 2019 In terms of annual numbers, fiscal 2006 was the first year of a six-year decline in apprehensions. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Border apprehensions: Looking to the past to understand the current spike in illegal crossings," 23 June 2019 Reports of an influx of inmates at the Youngstown prison come as border patrol agents are seeing larger numbers of migrants trying to enter the U.S. This has resulted in more apprehensions at the border. Eric Heisig,, "Immigrant inmates at Youngstown prison complain of crowded conditions," 3 June 2019 In January 2018, apprehensions at the southwest border totaled 35,905; in February, 36,751; in March, 50,347.... William A. Galston, WSJ, "The Asylum System Is Breaking the Border," 7 May 2019 When the Trump administration started separating families en masse in April, as CNN’s Tal Kopan has reported, officials initially expected that Border Patrol would start noticing a drop in family apprehensions within two or three weeks. Dara Lind, Vox, "The Trump administration reportedly wants to try family separation again," 12 Oct. 2018 The administration cites a year-over-year 26 percent drop in apprehensions at the southern border as evidence of its success in enhancing security. Major Garrett, CBS News, "Trump surprises his own administration by ordering troops to Mexican border," 4 Apr. 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

9 Jul 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 complain fretfully

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