com·​pre·​hend ˌkäm-pri-ˈhend How to pronounce comprehend (audio)
comprehended; comprehending; comprehends

transitive verb

: to grasp the nature, significance, or meaning of
unable to comprehend what has happened
: 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
: 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
comprehendible adjective

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.

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

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 Christoph Guttentag, the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, noted that although essays play a pivotal role in comprehending an applicant's profile, their reliability as indicators of a student’s actual writing skills has diminished. Dr. Aviva Legatt, Forbes, 28 Mar. 2024 While the extra attention can be weird for both mother and son to comprehend, Zach is ultimately happy to have his mom by his side. Emily Krauser, Peoplemag, 22 Mar. 2024 Fanon's surreal denial of this knowledge, his belief that somehow slicing the throat of the colonizer will lead to a new, more equitable reality and not just more violence, is hard to comprehend. Gal Beckerman, The Atlantic, 28 Mar. 2024 In addition to training chatbots on how to comprehend customer intent, organizations should also implement ongoing testing and optimization procedures to identify and address potential issues before customers encounter them or are negatively impacted by them. Alok Kulkarni, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 The numbers coming out of Gaza can be hard to comprehend. Cate Brown, Washington Post, 25 Mar. 2024 List making to comprehend infinity and ensure immortality! Kanya Kanchana, Longreads, 21 Mar. 2024 That’s partly why so many people find the palace’s PR strategy around the Case of the Missing Princess hard to comprehend. Allison Morrow, CNN, 20 Mar. 2024 Expert testimony on Aguilar Mendez's inability to comprehend English, his cultural background and concerns about his intellectual capacity had raised concerns in the case, said R.J. Larizza, the prosecutor in the case. Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News, 4 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'comprehend.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near comprehend

Cite this Entry

“Comprehend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


com·​pre·​hend ˌkäm-pri-ˈhend How to pronounce comprehend (audio)
: to grasp the meaning of : understand
comprehendible adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on comprehend

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