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

Essential Meaning of apprehension

1 : fear that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen : a feeling of being worried about the future The thought of moving to a new city fills me with apprehension. There is growing apprehension [=fear] that profits will be lower than expected. He has apprehensions [=misgivings] about the surgery.
2 : the act of arresting someone for a crime the sheriff's apprehension of the criminal = the criminal's apprehension by the sheriff an increased number of apprehensions
3 somewhat old-fashioned : the act of noticing and understanding something the apprehension [=perception] of danger

Full 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

Synonyms for 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 What does run throughout public sentiment, though, is that wider apprehension about the state of democracy, and that measure may be the most important of all to watch. Anthony Salvanto, Kabir Khanna, CBS News, 2 Jan. 2022 Law enforcement officials said that the parents had gone missing on Friday afternoon and that the county’s fugitive-apprehension team, F.B.I. agents and United States Marshals were looking for the couple. New York Times, 3 Dec. 2021 Ramos said there was apprehension in the community due to COVID-19. Los Angeles Times, 5 Dec. 2021 At first, O’Connor admits, there may have been some apprehension around him buying up a site that many locals felt personally attached to. Tommie Ethington, Rolling Stone, 5 Nov. 2021 The book is On Airs, Waters, and Places, written by Hippocrates around 400 B.C. Two and a half millennia later, the Northern Hemisphere is staring down its coming season of the year with growing apprehension. Rachel Gutman, The Atlantic, 20 Nov. 2021 As the state suffered its hottest summer on record, farmers watched with growing apprehension as their chickens and ducks died from dehydration and their vegetables withered without irrigation. Los Angeles Times, 26 Oct. 2021 The apprehension that everything is connected is essentially a paranoid insight (and a useful one for the novelist, who can pose as esoteric decoder). James Wood, The New Yorker, 27 Sep. 2021 And yet, apprehension about the impact of the new law is as pervasive as the other spreading concern — the delta variant. Michael Granberry, Dallas News, 1 Sep. 2021

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

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Last Updated

12 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Apprehension.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for apprehension


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

More from Merriam-Webster on apprehension

Nglish: Translation of apprehension for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of apprehension for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about apprehension


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