\ 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
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

Synonyms: Noun

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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

Verb 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. Noun 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 Tear gas wafted across entire city blocks, seeping into their eyes and lungs — the searing pain leaving some in tears, others blindly grasping for the reprieve offered by a stranger with a gallon of milk. Mandy Mclaren, The Courier-Journal, "'A traumatized generation': Louisville's youth demand racial justice during mass protests," 30 May 2020 Panzok's doctor was grasping for solutions to save his life. NBC News, "Memorial Day crowds, Biden makes first public appearance and Central Park video goes viral," 24 May 2020 Panels, discussion, concerts, parties, classes — people are grasping for a semblance of the previous way of life. Natalie Gontcharova,, "In The Age Of Constant Zoom Calls, Online Abuse Survivors Are Forced To Relive Trauma," 1 May 2020 On March 14, grasping for a way to cheer herself up, Rutz asked her daughter to help her make a cinnamon roll for the family to enjoy. oregonlive, "Portland woman’s giant cinnamon rolls have raised more than $28,000 for Oregon Food Bank," 29 Apr. 2020 The move comes as a global air travel shutdown caused by the pandemic has left Boeing’s commercial aircraft division grasping for cash. Washington Post, "Boeing backs out of Embraer merger," 25 Apr. 2020 Gilead’s stock has been whipsawed by incremental reports on the drug, as investors grasp for any sign of data that the company’s compound could be an effective therapy for Covid-19 patients. Robert Langreth, Fortune, "Gilead shares tumble on reports that the Chinese trial of its coronavirus drug was not successful," 23 Apr. 2020 The rapidly changing situation means that people are naturally grasping for information about the pandemic. Lila Thulin, Smithsonian Magazine, "How to Avoid Misinformation About COVID-19," 9 Apr. 2020 Covid-19 has forced 2020 US political campaigns to abandon door-to-door canvassing, rallies, and fundraising extravaganzas—leaving them grasping for ways to build meaningful interpersonal bonds, just like the rest of us. Wired Opinion, Wired, "Texts From Politicians Could Be More Dangerous Than Ever," 4 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Few people have a better grasp on Michael Jordan’s evolution from gangly teenager to NBA legend than does Chris Mullin. Connor Letourneau,, "‘The Last Dance’: Chris Mullin’s unique perspective on Michael Jordan’s career," 17 May 2020 And all of the black women political leaders that CBS News spoke with said the eventual vice-presidential pick must have a strong grasp on the problems facing the black community and particularly black women. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Biden challenged to pick black woman as running mate," 27 Apr. 2020 The most important voices are the experts who have some grasp on our situation — like the 20 professionals working in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history whom Donald G. McNeil Jr. spoke to last week. Ben Smith, New York Times, "Trump Has Begun His Corona Campaign. We Don’t Have to Play Along.," 19 Apr. 2020 This is its own kind of tradition: Scores of Americans, including many members of Congress, have little grasp on treaty responsibilities to tribes, let alone an understanding of tribal sovereignty. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "Protecting Native Elders in a Pandemic," 27 Mar. 2020 Back-to-back state titles seemed within their grasp. David J. Kim, The Courier-Journal, "Male falls to Trinity in Class 6A state title game, its first loss in over a year," 8 Dec. 2019 President Trump in particular is known for having a tenuous grasp on modern technology. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Did U.S. Troops Have a Robot on the ISIS Raid?," 31 Oct. 2019 Jordan Morris, who was excellent as a sub in Saturday’s victory over Trinidad & Tobago, seemed to have a good grasp of Berhalter’s system and should remain an asset off the bench. Brian Straus,, "With Reasonable Rotation, USA Wins Gold Cup Group, Has Favorable Path," 26 June 2019 This new series is a release, crafted by experienced creators who have a pretty good grasp on the elitist behavior that angers the masses. Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, "HBO’s ‘Succession’ is a cruel catharsis, and perfect for our swampy time," 1 June 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

Verb and Noun

Middle English graspen

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Time Traveler for grasp

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for grasp

Last Updated

4 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Grasp.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for grasp


How to pronounce grasp (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for grasp

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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