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 Companies delay their workers’ commute so students can get to test centers on time, the stock market pushes back its opening bell by an hour, and planes stop taking off so as to not interfere with listening-comprehension sections. Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times, "Testing times: South Korea holds high-stakes college exam as COVID-19 cases rise," 2 Dec. 2020 Students read books and other material, then take short tests to gauge comprehension. Washington Post, "Will my grandkids still love me if I buy them nonfiction?," 27 Nov. 2020 The scenes of rage, violence and agony are so vast that the whole of it may still be beyond comprehension. Jay Reeves, Star Tribune, "Capitol assault a more sinister attack than first appeared," 11 Jan. 2021 Hondo ISD teachers say there are differences in the speed and degree of comprehension between students who began the school year in classrooms and those who spent weeks in remote learning. Krista Torralva,, "More rural school districts in San Antonio area throw in the towel on remote learning," 28 Dec. 2020 The all-carb, all-the-time diet the elves follow is funny, and beyond the comprehension of the soldiers stationed at the North Pole. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, "'Fatman' should be the dumbest fun. Instead, it's just an action movie with some elves," 9 Nov. 2020 Hannah Kim, an instructor who taught reading comprehension and writing, also noted the struggles many of the women endured to secure their education. NBC News, "How a program in Bangladesh is preparing garment workers for college," 31 Dec. 2020 Experts say homelessness has implications on students' learning ability, reading comprehension and literacy rates, which is now magnified by a lack of access to remote learning resources. Tyler Kendall, CBS News, "Homeless students in New York City top 100,000 for fifth year. Experts say the number could be much higher.," 3 Dec. 2020 Why the Florida head coach felt the need to take an indirect shot at Ohio State minutes after losing to an LSU team that lost to Alabama, 55-17, a week earlier is beyond comprehension. John Talty |, al, "Dan Mullen needs to stop whining; Malzahn should be judged on Nix," 13 Dec. 2020

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

4 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Comprehension.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
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More Definitions for comprehension



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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