verb com·pre·hend \ ˌkäm-pri-ˈhend , -prē- \
|Updated on: 10 Jul 2018

Definition of comprehend

comprehended; comprehending; comprehends
1 : to grasp the nature, significance, or meaning of
  • unable to comprehend what has happened
2 : to contain or hold within a total scope, significance, or amount
  • … philosophy's scope comprehends the truth of everything which man may understand …
  • —Henry Osborn Taylor
3 : to include by construction or implication
  • Does not prudence comprehend all the virtues?
  • —Thomas B. Silver
  • Our civilization comprehends great variety and complexity …
  • —Perry Meisel


play \ˌkäm-pri-ˈhen-də-bəl, -prē-\ adjective

Examples of comprehend in a Sentence

  1. the age at which children can comprehend the difference between right and wrong

  2. it took me a while to comprehend algebra

Recent Examples of comprehend from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'comprehend.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

To comprehend is to mentally grasp something's complete nature or meaning. Comprehend is thus often a bit stronger than understand: for example, you may understand the instructions in a handbook without completely comprehending their purpose. Comprehend's second meaning is much less common. Using that sense of the word, we could say that good manners comprehends (that is, includes) more than simple table etiquette, for example, or that true courage comprehends more than just physical showing off. And something comprehensive includes a great deal: so a comprehensive exam, for instance, includes all the material that was studied in the course.

Origin and Etymology of comprehend

Middle English, from Anglo-French comprendre, comprehendre, from Latin comprehendere, from com- + prehendere to grasp — more at get

Synonym Discussion of comprehend

understand, comprehend, appreciate mean to have a clear or complete idea of. understand and comprehend are very often interchangeable. understand may, however, stress the fact of having attained a firm mental grasp of something.
    • orders that were fully understood and promptly obeyed
comprehend may stress the process of coming to grips with something intellectually.
    • I have trouble comprehending your reasons for doing this
appreciate implies a just evaluation or judgment of a thing's value or nature.
    • failed to appreciate the risks involved
include, comprehend, embrace, involve mean to contain within as part of the whole. include suggests the containment of something as a constituent, component, or subordinate part of a larger whole.
    • the price of dinner includes dessert
comprehend implies that something comes within the scope of a statement or definition.
    • his system comprehends all history
embrace implies a gathering of separate items within a whole.
    • her faith embraces both Christian and non-Christian beliefs
involve suggests inclusion by virtue of the nature of the whole, whether by being its natural or inevitable consequence.
    • the new job involves a lot of detail

COMPREHEND Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of comprehend for English Language Learners

  • : to understand (something, such as a difficult or complex subject)

COMPREHEND Defined for Kids


verb com·pre·hend \ ˌkäm-pri-ˈhend \

Definition of comprehend for Students

comprehended; comprehending
1 : to understand fully
2 : to take in : include

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