com·​pre·​hen·​sion | \ˌkäm-pri-ˈhen(t)-shən, -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"

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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

This includes issues with language comprehension, memory, and visual/perceptual function at age 6 as well as problems with attention, problem-solving, and analytical skills at ages 13-16. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "Here’s What You Need to Know About Using Marijuana While Pregnant or Breastfeeding," 12 Oct. 2018 Even that number, the number of symbols, is virtually beyond comprehension. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Wrap Your Head Around the Enormity of the Number TREE(3)," 20 Oct. 2017 But his recent comments reveal his lack of comprehension about the scope of what the players want to change. P.r. Lockhart, Vox, "NFL players are protesting systemic racism. Trump wants to solve it with pardons.," 15 June 2018 Quite simply, this song about an astronaut reaching a level of awareness beyond levels of human comprehension is the best song Black Sabbath recorded. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "17 Songs About Space That Are Cosmically Great," 3 Mar. 2017 Sounds are more muted these days because there are too many of them, every utterance equally weighted and demanding of us total comprehension. Jason Kehe, WIRED, "The Real Reason You Use Closed Captions for Everything Now," 26 June 2018 The median reading comprehension level in English of deaf high school graduates is fourth grade, according to the complaint. Maria Clark,, "Deaf Slidell resident sues local nursing home over inadequate interpreter service," 6 June 2018 Apple's Siri voice navigation service has been criticized for various content issues over the years, including lackluster language support and emergency comprehension. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "iPhone’s weirdest glitch yet: Ask Siri to define “mother” twice, learn a bad word," 29 Apr. 2018 Some 23 million American adults are functionally illiterate by the simplest tests of everyday reading, writing, and comprehension. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "‘A Nation at Risk’ demanded education reform 35 years ago. Here’s how it’s been bungled ever since.," 26 Apr. 2018

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.

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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

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Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for comprehension

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

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English Language Learners Definition of comprehension

: ability to understand


com·​pre·​hen·​sion | \ˌkäm-pri-ˈhen-shən \

Kids Definition of comprehension

: ability to understand reading comprehension beyond comprehension

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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 clear from alleged fault or guilt

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