\ ˈgrasp How to pronounce grasp (audio) \
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 How to pronounce graspable (audio) \ adjective
grasper noun

Synonyms for grasp

Synonyms: Verb

comprehend, know, understand

Synonyms: Noun

control, hand(s)

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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

Neither the State Department nor any Democratic administration since Truman’s has grasped and advanced the American strategic interest consistently. Conrad Black, National Review, "A Strong U.S. Needs a Strong U.K.," 11 July 2019 Very quickly, and after only a very small number of examples, even a toddler will grasp the idea of what a cow looks like and be able to identify one in new images, from different angles and in different colors. Gabriel A. Silva, The Conversation, "Neuroscience and artificial intelligence can help improve each other," 9 July 2019 From Goethe to Kant to Kleist, from Gottlob Frege to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Germans have been openly obsessed with the truth — striving for it (streben); grasping it (fassen) — since anyone began listening to what Germans had to say. Rebecca Schuman, Longreads, "On Truth and Lying in the Extra German Sense," 20 June 2019 The Russian journalist Ivan Golunov is still trying to grasp what happened to him. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, "The Release of Ivan Golunov and the Power of Collective Action in Russia," 18 June 2019 Harder to grasp are health impacts from microscopic particles in the smoke that can trigger heart attacks, breathing problems and other maladies. Matthew Brown, The Denver Post, "Jump in wildfires across Western U.S. means smoke’s health impact will spread," 25 June 2019 My job is not to control and grasp it, which is like trying to grab a feather. Jonathan Van Meter, Vogue, "“My Job Is To Be a Spirit Leader”: Behind the Scenes with Virgil Abloh," 14 May 2019 His need for a visa, her need for security, no longer seemed grasping or callous. Leila Aboulela, Harper's magazine, "Whisky Lullaby," 10 Jan. 2019 Words, letters and sounds became elusive to her, like grasping at bubbles blowing in the wind. Robyn Curnow, CNN, "The upside to dyslexia, even as a journalist," 6 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

View Sample Sign Up Now Truth be told, AMLO wasn’t elected for his fine grasp of economic policy. Ian Bremmer, Time, "The Quick Read About… Mexico’s Recent Political Drama," 14 July 2019 Even more than the 2009 U.S. Open final, which Federer let slip from his grasp against 20-year old Juan Martin del Potro after leading two sets to one and appearing to be in command of the match. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Roger Federer will not forget the sting of this Wimbledon loss to Novak Djokovic," 14 July 2019 Liverpool had previously been reluctant to agree to such a deal, no longer seeing themselves as a subsidiary to the Spanish giants after prying the Champions League from their grasp., "Liverpool Set to Launch Bid for Real Madrid Star," 5 July 2019 Compared to my grasp of Spanish, Puig speaks English like the poet laureate. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc's Morning Line: Yasiel Puig's 'stupid things' rewarding the Reds this season," 3 July 2019 Alkhouli said that some people bullied him for his grasp of English. CBS News, "Meet the Syrian migrant boy whose story became a portrait," 28 June 2019 Well, everyone has their own grasp on the question. Colette Aboussouan, Allure, "Three Young Models Reveal What "American Beauty" Means to Them," 20 June 2019 The Raiders, who praised the 6-foot safety’s physicality and tackling in college, have raved this spring about his early grasp of their defense. Matt Kawahara,, "Fatherhood drives Raiders rookie safety Johnathan Abram," 16 June 2019 Some Reddit users have suggested that all of that—including the Iron Throne in her grasp—are symbols of things she's wanted but will never attain. Glamour, "Game of Thones Fans Think Jon Snow Will Turn Against Daenerys in a Major Way," 11 May 2019

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

Verb and Noun

Middle English graspen

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Learn More about grasp

Dictionary Entries near grasp





grasp at

grasp for


Statistics for grasp

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

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 How to pronounce grasp (audio) \
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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More from Merriam-Webster on grasp

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with grasp

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for grasp

Spanish Central: Translation of grasp

Nglish: Translation of grasp for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of grasp for Arabic Speakers

Comments on grasp

What made you want to look up grasp? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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