\ 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

Presumably, his second offseason with the 49ers also allowed him to fully grasp Kyle Shanahan’s complicated offense. Harold Gutmann, The Mercury News, "49ers’ Garoppolo has led through humility, all the way back to high school," 27 Aug. 2019 Phillips, now 38, didn't fully grasp the magnitude of the shooting until the next day. Jeff Roberson, Fortune, "In Ferguson, Varying Views on the Legacy of Aug. 9, 2014," 9 Aug. 2019 To fully grasp the monumental changes in Alabama’s beer laws over the last decade, take a look inside Good People Brewing Co. Eric Velasco,, "How Free the Hops changed the state of Alabama beer," 10 June 2019 The intelligence community didn’t fully grasp the Russian influence operation to denigrate Democrat Hillary Clinton and boost Mr. Trump until months after the 2016 election. Robert Mcmillan, WSJ, "Russian Hackers Largely Skipped the Midterms, and No One Really Knows Why," 12 Nov. 2018 As council members expanded their questioning of Munster and Stallworth, Munster admitted there were concerns that the finance department had not fully grasped the features of City Hall's computer system that tracks permits. Kevin Litten,, "Stacy Head gets booze permits moved from agency she calls 'inept,' possibly corrupt," 20 Apr. 2018 According to psychologists, the vast majority of children grasp the concept of lying by age four. Washington Post, "‘Telling Lies’: One of the most brilliant video games of the year," 23 Aug. 2019 Sometimes, people grasp an opportunity and wrestle their way to wealth. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Once a broke surfer, this San Diego entrepreneur built dream life on an $800 investment," 16 Aug. 2019 To start, Ballmer didn’t fully grasp how the league’s 30 franchises shared revenue. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, "Steve Ballmer’s ‘juiced’ enthusiasm for Clippers is helping transform team," 9 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Atwood’s best novels bring to bear a psychologist’s grasp of deep, interior forces and a mad scientist’s knack for conceptual experiments that can draw these forces out into the open. Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker, "Margaret Atwood Expands the World of “The Handmaid’s Tale”," 5 Sep. 2019 Lladrovci couldn’t understand Arabic and had only a frail grasp of the theological niceties that divided Sunni from Shia. The Economist, "Confessions of an Islamic State fighter," 16 Aug. 2019 Football, baseball and basketball fans don’t quite grasp competing in ancillary tournaments while their regular season is still going on. Mike Bianchi, Pro Soccer USA, "Atlanta United crushes Orlando City’s dreams — again," 8 Aug. 2019 Made a position switch last year at mid-season and has gotten a great grasp of the system. Richard Obert, azcentral, "Arizona high school football players on verge of breaking out in 2019," 24 July 2019 Hoyer is a solid backup with an excellent grasp of this offense and a pretty good knowledge of a lot of other schemes, too. Jim Mcbride,, "With oodles of talent and depth, there will be plenty of interesting position battles during Patriots training camp," 22 July 2019 Lodolo and his team next hope to study the gas being emitted from these systems to get a better grasp on their source. National Geographic, "Six underwater volcanoes found hiding in plain sight," 2 Aug. 2019 Behind the scenes, arts and civic officials have been trying to get a grasp on exactly how much more money is needed — and where that money would come from. Matthew J. Palm,, "Orlando arts groups worry they’ll be priced out of Dr. Phillips’ new Steinmetz Hall," 24 July 2019 Nobody outside the White House or the National Park Service seems to have a firm grasp of the plan, and neither of those entities is talking. USA TODAY, "Pride pickup, sphinx on move, Tony Stark’s cabin: News from around our 50 states," 13 June 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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Dictionary Entries near grasp





grasp at

grasp for


Statistics for grasp

Last Updated

11 Sep 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).


to make a temporary encampment

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