\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

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

The gecko grippers are based on the eponymous animal and are perfectly designed (thanks, nature!) for handling or grasping a smooth surface like glass. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Inspired by Wasps, This Micro-Drone Lifts 40 Times its Weight," 25 Oct. 2018 Just note that in the Good Housekeeping Institute's test, older kids had a better time grasping the game than younger ones. Lindsey Murray, Good Housekeeping, "We’re Officially Calling Scruff-a-Luvs the Hottest Holiday Toy of 2018," 4 Sep. 2018 Every good reason to keep Jared Kushner’s grasping little paws off vital national security information also applies quite well to the current president* of the United States. Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, "How Do You Deal with This Much Nonsense?," 28 Feb. 2018 But commanding a ballroom of influential state party leaders is different from grasping the concerns at a cafe table in rural Iowa, where Barack Obama connected during his winning 2008 Iowa caucus campaign. Thomas Beaumont, The Seattle Times, "Eyeing White House, Cory Booker introduces himself to Iowa," 24 Sep. 2018 Her mom's last picture of the incident showed the girl grasping two balloons in a hospital hallway. Cleve R. Wootson Jr.,, "Young Mississippi girl's sudden paralysis caused by a tick on her scalp," 12 June 2018 But this is a difficult truth to grasp in everyday life. Sean Illing, Vox, "What the psychedelic drug ayahuasca showed me about my life.," 7 Apr. 2018 Both prophets and shrinks have taught us that bitterness is an emotional and spiritual hot coal grasped in one’s own fist. Philip Chard, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Forgiveness heals bitterness that corrodes the soul," 11 Jan. 2018 On top is a set of playback controls that are simple to grasp. Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "The Ars Holiday Gift Guide 2018—tech and gear for travel that we’d buy," 13 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The controversy follows a pattern of concerns raised by former senior military officers about Trump’s grasp of the military’s role. Robert Burns, The Seattle Times, "Trump criticizes war hero for not killing bin Laden sooner," 20 Nov. 2018 On the other hand, a win for Comedy Series, Drama Series, or Limited Series remains out of Netflix’s grasp, when both Hulu and Amazon (its chief streaming competitors) have won a series prize by this point. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Winners: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Netflix, and old people. Losers: Atlanta and The Handmaid’s Tale.," 18 Sep. 2018 Americans are taking shorter vacations and traveling closer to home with less planning, making an All-American Road Trip within everyone’s grasp. Fox News, "Big adventures in a smaller RV," 22 Aug. 2018 Trump has blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for Russia’s armed intervention in Ukraine and indicated little interest in extricating Crimea from Russia’s grasp. Washington Post, "After ‘diplomatic equivalent of a multiple-car pileup,’ U.S. allies brace for NATO summit," 28 June 2018 Jeff Park’s shoulder moved unsubtly beneath his hand, the linen of his shirt slipping out of Barry’s grasp. Gary Shteyngart, The New Yorker, "The Luck of Kokura," 18 June 2018 Mercer boasted a remarkable grasp of American vernacular language. WSJ, "He Sang One for the Ages," 2 Nov. 2018 With the trophy now within their grasp, Atletico's current golden boy, Griezmann, was then substituted for the club's former. Matias Grez, CNN, "Antoine Griezmann masterclass guides Atletico Madrid to Europa League title," 16 May 2018 Wallentine, however, displayed a shaky grasp of the facts and the sequence of events. Michael Gordon, charlotteobserver, "Expert: Police acted reasonably in shooting mentally ill man; family attorney scoffs | Charlotte Observer," 5 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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Dictionary Entries near grasp





grasp at

grasp for


Statistics for grasp

Last Updated

18 Dec 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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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

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