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

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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

That may be because the idealist in Roberts can’t comprehend someone would go to those lengths just to play athletics at a different school. Mick Mccabe, Detroit Free Press, "MHSAA's Jack Roberts announces retirement after 32 years as exec director," 24 Apr. 2018 Stephen Strasburg, Nationals Jon Tayler: To those blessed with talents us mere mortals can barely comprehend, the expectations will always be higher, and the criticism will always be louder. Staff,, "SI's Top 100 MLB Players of 2018: Nos. 50–21," 12 Feb. 2018 It’s hard to comprehend how deep a 2,500 foot well really is. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "It’s a Wonderful World: The Remaking of California Agriculture," 26 Feb. 2017 Or, in other words, clothes that a shopper can't fully comprehend by looking a web page alone. Cam Wolf, GQ, "Nordstrom's New York Store Is Like Shopping Online—Only in Real Life," 12 Apr. 2018 Scientists in general and theoretical physicists in particular are the vanguard of professionals who comprehend the importance of collaboration. Anchorage Daily News, "SpaceX reveals what’s lacking in Washington, D.C.," 12 Feb. 2018 After all, his lawyers ask, what is the state’s interest in putting someone to death who can’t comprehend why he is being executed? Matt Ford, The New Republic, "What the New Supreme Court Will Decide," 29 June 2018 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

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.

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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

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Last Updated

30 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for comprehend

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

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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

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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).


to express warning or disapproval

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