com·pre·hend | \ ˌkäm-pri-ˈhend , -prē- \
comprehended; comprehending; comprehends

Definition of comprehend 

transitive verb

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other words from comprehend

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

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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.

Examples of comprehend in a Sentence

the age at which children can comprehend the difference between right and wrong it took me a while to comprehend algebra

Recent Examples on the Web

The Cold War required patience to keep it from turning hot, but both American leaders and voters could comprehend it. Jon Talton, The Seattle Times, "The cost of carbon: Pay now or pay later," 17 Jan. 2018 For most of Season 2, The Handmaid’s Tale seemed to comprehend this powerlessness. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "A Maddening Season Finale for The Handmaid’s Tale," 11 July 2018 But for a show that asks the audience to do so much work, Westworld doesn’t trust the audience to comprehend even the slightest subtext. Scott Meslow, GQ, "Now That Westworld Season 2 Is Over, Was It Worth It?," 25 June 2018 Simonetti's team set out to comprehend and catalog chemical and isotopic signatures in uranium ore from around the world—like the euxenite from Madagascar or the Schroeckingerite from Wamsutter, Wyoming. Sarah Scoles, WIRED, "How a Uranium Hunter Sniffs Out Nuclear Weapons," 11 June 2018 The pleasure of trying out a new color when everything else seems out of control is a human impulse that machines can neither comprehend nor anticipate. Marc Rey, Fortune, "Commentary: Artificial Intelligence Should Complement, But Never Replace, the Human Connection," 2 Apr. 2018 Going from obscurity to arena-headlining stars so quickly created considerable upheaval, Sermon said, as the group members tried to comprehend their success and adjust to a new, more hectic, life. Alan Sculley, kansascity, "Imagine Dragons: ‘Evolve’ show is ‘the most complicated production’ they’ve done," 11 July 2018 Trying to comprehend just how many people once dreamed of becoming a professional footballer boggles the mind., "7 Players That Achieved Greatness Both On and Off the Field," 27 June 2018 Ten Hillary Clinton voters and 10 Trump voters came together in Ohio a few weeks after the election to share their feelings and to try to comprehend how anyone could have voted for that candidate. Ledyard King, USA TODAY, "One group tries to lower the volume on the high-decibel noise that's further dividing a polarized nation," 17 June 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of comprehend

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for comprehend

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about comprehend

Share comprehend

Statistics for comprehend

Last Updated

18 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for comprehend

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for comprehend



English Language Learners Definition of comprehend

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


com·pre·hend | \ ˌkäm-pri-ˈhend \
comprehended; comprehending

Kids Definition of comprehend

1 : to understand fully

2 : to take in : include

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on comprehend

What made you want to look up comprehend? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


occurring twice a year or every two years

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

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!