com·​pre·​hen·​sion | \ ˌkäm-pri-ˈhen(t)-shən How to pronounce comprehension (audio) , -prē- \

Definition of comprehension

1a : the act or action of grasping with the intellect : understanding children who have difficulty with comprehension of spoken language What the artist actually needs is comprehension of his aims and ideals by men he respects …— H. L. Mencken
b : knowledge gained by comprehending tests that measure the students' comprehension in math She carried on with full comprehension of the risk involved.
c : the capacity for understanding fully mysteries that are beyond our comprehension The war caused suffering beyond comprehension.
2a : the act or process of comprising the comprehension of all the denominations into one Church
b : the faculty or capability of including : comprehensiveness the broad comprehension of the word "animal"

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of comprehension in a Sentence

The students showed excellent reading comprehension. the president's comprehension of the current situation in the Middle East
Recent Examples on the Web For the queen, comprehension is somebody else’s problem. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Elizabeth I’s ‘Idiosyncratic’ Handwriting Identifies Her as the Scribe Behind a Long Overlooked Translation," 2 Dec. 2019 Researchers have had to invent new and more difficult tests for software on tasks such as basic reading comprehension. Wired, "Google Search Now Reads at a Higher Level," 25 Oct. 2019 Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth or vocabulary and background knowledge. Karen Zurawski, Houston Chronicle, "Katy mayor calls attention to dyslexia in proclamation," 18 Oct. 2019 The technical co-founder watched me complete a reading-comprehension section from the LSAT. Anna Wiener, The New Yorker, "Four Years in Startups," 23 Sep. 2019 She was given 50% more time than her classmates on exams because she was diagnosed with reading-comprehension difficulties and Attention Deficit Disorder. Douglas Belkin, WSJ, "Colleges Bend the Rules for More Students, Give Them Extra Help," 24 May 2018 Plus, changing things up in this nonbinding way will likely give you a different view of what’s happening — quite literally, when your plans take you out of the house — which tends to expand comprehension. Carolyn Hax, The Mercury News, "Carolyn Hax: I married him, and now he ignores me," 17 Sep. 2019 Plus, changing things up in this nonbinding way will likely give you a different view of what's happening -- quite literally, when your plans take you out of the house -- which tends to expand comprehension. Carolyn Hax, oregonlive, "Carolyn Hax: Husband’s issues relegating marital relationship to the back burner," 17 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'comprehension.' 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 comprehension

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for comprehension

Middle French & Latin; Middle French, from Latin comprehension-, comprehensio, from comprehendere to understand, comprise

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about comprehension

Time Traveler for comprehension

Time Traveler

The first known use of comprehension was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for comprehension

Last Updated

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Comprehension.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for comprehension


How to pronounce comprehension (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of comprehension

: ability to understand


com·​pre·​hen·​sion | \ ˌkäm-pri-ˈhen-shən How to pronounce comprehension (audio) \

Kids Definition of comprehension

: ability to understand reading comprehension beyond comprehension

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on comprehension

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


to help to grow, develop, or succeed

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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!