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

But to what extent is reasoning, comprehension, or knowledge of science actually needed to answer these questions? Wired, "AI Can Pass Standardized Tests—But It Would Fail Preschool," 10 Sep. 2019 This area of the brain controls fear response and word comprehension, among other things, which explains my inexplicable terror and inability to speak during my episodes., "For 6 Years, Doctors Kept Telling Me I Had PMS—but It Turned Out to Be Brain Cancer," 31 July 2019 Comics also offer young readers time to reread and deepen their comprehension. Los Angeles Times, "The case for comic books," 16 Aug. 2019 How that is scientifically possible is beyond my comprehension. Chuck Blount,, "52 Weeks of Burgers: Burger Culture," 9 Aug. 2019 Everything about my diagnosis was beyond my comprehension. Teen Vogue, "I Was Diagnosed With Breast Cancer for the First Time at Age 16," 21 June 2019 The week started with attorney general and man with poor reading comprehension William Barr weighing in on the topic and suggesting that the president was going to do something pretty big. Graeme Mcmillan, WIRED, "While You Were Offline: So Long, Alex Acosta," 14 July 2019 In other words, the gap in comprehension wasn’t a gap in skills. Natalie Wexler, The Atlantic, "Elementary Education Has Gone Terribly Wrong," 9 July 2019 His team found that by the end of fifth grade, middle-class students often were ahead of grade level in reading comprehension, while more disadvantaged students tended to be years behind. Libby Solomon,, "Stopping the summer slide: Baltimore County libraries offer downtime reading program," 18 June 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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Statistics for comprehension

Last Updated

20 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for comprehension

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

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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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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 spread over or through

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