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"

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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 The foundation of a child’s education requires reading and comprehension skills. Alec Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Seven candidates are running for two spots on the Oconomowoc School Board," 29 Jan. 2020 Volunteer tutors work with students on basic reading comprehension skills. James Burky, The Denver Post, "Impact of Colorado’s Children’s Literacy Center felt in classroom and on football field," 25 Oct. 2019 Schools, literary nonprofits and philanthropists often focus on encouraging students to be strong readers with solid comprehension skills., "Is teaching writing as important as teaching reading?," 23 July 2019 Schools, literary nonprofits and philanthropists often focus on encouraging students to be strong readers with solid comprehension skills. Washington Post, "Is teaching writing as important as teaching reading?," 10 July 2019 Your little one just might begin to look at stories in a whole new light, sparking imagination and wonder, while increasing important vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. Chrissie Ferguson, South Florida Parenting, "Instill a love of reading through storytelling," 25 June 2018 How anyone at the Globes was able to look past Momoa's biceps to concentrate on the stage is beyond comprehension. Marianne Garvey, CNN, "Jason Momoa's arms were the real stars of the Golden Globes," 8 Jan. 2020 Who better than a finger-wagging teen bereft of accomplishment, or any comprehension of basic economics or history, to be Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019? David Harsanyi, National Review, "Greta Thunberg Is the Perfect Hero for an Unserious Time," 11 Dec. 2019 In other cases, it's been used to beat reading comprehension tests and finish your sentences (looking at you, Gmail). Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "The Truly Baffling Case of the Ancient Voynich Manuscript," 12 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.

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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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Time Traveler for comprehension

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for comprehension

Last Updated

8 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Comprehension.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

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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

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