\ˈgrasp \
grasped; grasping; grasps

Definition of grasp 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to make the motion of seizing : clutch grasping for support

transitive verb

1 : to take or seize eagerly grasp the opportunity for advancement

2 : to clasp or embrace especially with the fingers or arms grasped the pen and began writing

3 : to lay hold of with the mind : comprehend failed to grasp the danger of the situation

grasp at straws

: to reach for or try anything in desperation

grasp the nettle

: to act boldly



Definition of grasp (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : handle

b : embrace

2 : hold, control kept a firm grasp on the rope

3a : the reach of the arms The books on the top shelf were beyond my grasp.

b : the power of seizing and holding or attaining success lay within their grasp

4 : mental hold or comprehension especially when broad a remarkable grasp of the subject

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Other Words from grasp


graspable \ˈgra-spə-bəl \ adjective
grasper noun

Choose the Right Synonym for grasp


take, seize, grasp, clutch, snatch, grab mean to get hold of by or as if by catching up with the hand. take is a general term applicable to any manner of getting something into one's possession or control. take some salad from the bowl seize implies a sudden and forcible movement in getting hold of something tangible or an apprehending of something fleeting or elusive when intangible. seized the suspect grasp stresses a laying hold so as to have firmly in possession. grasp the handle and pull clutch suggests avidity or anxiety in seizing or grasping and may imply less success in holding. clutching her purse snatch suggests more suddenness or quickness but less force than seize. snatched a doughnut and ran grab implies more roughness or rudeness than snatch. grabbed roughly by the arm

Examples of grasp in a Sentence


I grasped the end of the rope and pulled as hard as I could. I grasped the rope by its end. His arthritis is so bad he can barely grasp a pencil.


The author shows a weak grasp of military strategy. The books on the top shelf are just beyond my grasp. She moved the toy to within the baby's grasp. She felt the solution was within her grasp.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Anyone who suggests that handing out pardons and cuddling up to celebrities can bait black voters into conservative thinking are grasping at the same straws as Donald Trump. Michael Harriot, The Root, "Black People Aren’t Stupid: The False Notion That Kanye and Kim Are Helping Trump Win Black Voters," 11 June 2018 Spoiled Warriors watchers are grasping for something to complain about. Al Saracevic, San Francisco Chronicle, "Warriors fans criticizing Kevin Durant? C’mon people," 27 May 2018 Paper Boi, who definitely had a day’s worth of frustration snapped on him, grasps him by the shirt and threatens him for that haircut. Lauren Alvarez, Billboard, "'Atlanta' Episode 5 Recap: Paper Boi's Absurd Adventures With His Barber," 30 Mar. 2018 The parents grasp an olive branch instead of a bouquet, and recite their divorce vows to each other, with the children standing off to the side as witnesses. Woman's Day Kitchen, Woman's Day, "What Are Your Thoughts On Divorce Ceremonies?," 26 Apr. 2012 With plans for a KeyArena renovation in the works, the return of the Sonics seems much easier to grasp now than a decade ago. Sean Quinton, The Seattle Times, "10 years ago today, the Sonics moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City," 2 July 2018 To grasp how influential Kennedy was on this court, take a look at this chart showing the history of the median justice. Alvin Chang, Vox, "The volatility of the Supreme Court, explained in a cartoon," 2 July 2018 Three new books go beyond recent assumptions about class in America and attempt to grasp a new situation. Jedediah Purdy, The New Republic, "The Remaking of Class," 27 June 2018 The duality of all this – the anguish and the joy – is impossible to grasp. Andrew Joseph, For The Win, "ESPN's Tony Reali delivered a powerful on-air reflection on losing his child," 18 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Granik discovered her during a Skype audition and couldn’t let go, attracted to McKenzie’s grasp of the material and quest to learn more about her character. Nicole Sperling, HWD, "The Filmmaker Who Discovered Jennifer Lawrence Has Found a New Star in Leave No Trace," 26 June 2018 Much like Baker Mayfield, McSorley combines top-level awareness, underrated athleticism and an impeccable grasp of his team’s offense in an undersized package. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "The 10 best quarterbacks in college football," 26 June 2018 Rubio insists the campaign's numbers put him in second about 10 points behind Lopez Obrador with plenty of undecideds, arguing victory is still within grasp. Maria Verza, Fox News, "Ruling party's Meade banking on upset in Mexico election," 26 June 2018 Uncannily confident, Slat used a TEDx talk in 2012 in his native Netherlands to announce that a solution to one of the world’s most intractable environmental problems was within grasp. James Rainey /, NBC News, "A young Dutch inventor wants to clean plastic from the ocean. Can he do it?," 13 June 2018 Your information will be used as described in our Privacy Policy The Rockets had rolled long enough to tease themselves with all that seemed possible and within their grasp. Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle, "Rockets misfire as Warriors surge to Game 7 win," 28 May 2018 Humans are capable of accomplishing amazing feats, and our history of accomplishments as a species should give us the confidence that solutions in cybersecurity are just as surely within our grasp. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "Cyber Saturday—Would You Buy Cybersecurity From a Witch Doctor?," 19 May 2018 The behavior only changed when the award was within grasp. Neil Senturia,, "Do employee incentives and bonuses work?," 7 May 2018 For all the hungry nights, a Power Five conference starting role is now within grasp. Danny Moran,, "Philadelphia native Jeromy Reichner impressing in push to start on Oregon State defensive line," 18 Apr. 2018

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense


1561, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for grasp


Middle English graspen


see grasp entry 1

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Learn More about grasp

Dictionary Entries near grasp





grasp at

grasp for


Statistics for grasp

Last Updated

9 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for grasp

The first known use of grasp was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for grasp



English Language Learners Definition of grasp

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to take and hold (something) with your fingers, hands, etc.

: to understand (something that is complicated or difficult)



English Language Learners Definition of grasp (Entry 2 of 2)

: a usually strong hold

: an understanding of something

: the distance that can be reached by your arms and hands


\ˈgrasp \
grasped; grasping

Kids Definition of grasp

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to seize and hold with or as if with the hand grasp a bat You must grasp the opportunity.

2 : to make the motion of seizing She grasped at branches as she fell.

3 : understand sense 1 He quickly grasped the idea.



Kids Definition of grasp (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a grip of the hand Keep a firm grasp on the rope.

2 : control entry 2 sense 1, hold The land was in the grasp of a tyrant.

3 : the power of seizing and holding : reach He put the tools beyond the child's grasp.

4 : understanding entry 1 sense 1 She has a good grasp of math.

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Comments on grasp

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