pre·​hen·​sile | \prē-ˈhen(t)-səl, -ˈhen-ˌsī(-ə)l\

Definition of prehensile 

1 : adapted for seizing or grasping especially by wrapping around prehensile tail

2 : gifted with mental grasp or moral or aesthetic perception

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Other Words from prehensile

prehensility \(ˌ)prē-​ˌhen-​ˈsi-​lə-​tē \ noun

Did You Know?

You may be familiar with "prehensile" from the animal world: monkeys have prehensile tails, elephants have prehensile trunks, giraffes have prehensile tongues, etc. But can you comprehend where this word comes from? Can you apprehend its derivation? The Latin verb prehendere, meaning "to seize or grasp," is the ancestor of a number of English terms, including "comprehend," "apprehend," and "prehensile." "Prehensile" came into English in the 1780s via French préhensile, from Latin prehensus, the past participle of "prehendere."

Examples of prehensile in a Sentence

The monkey has a prehensile tail. The elephant has a prehensile trunk.

Recent Examples on the Web

The partially prehensile proboscis helps the species probe the ground for leaves and fallen fruit. Bradley J. Fikes,, "For the Fourth, bring out the (San Diego Zoo) babies!," 3 July 2018 The cuscus hangs on by its fingertips—or its curling, prehensile tail. The Economist, "Asia’s appetite for endangered species is relentless," 19 Apr. 2018 In a woodblock, once In an early-Netherlandish world, He is shown with a crocodile, a unicorn, and a wobbly man With a tail and prehensile feet. Connie Bruck, The New Yorker, "Giraffe," 14 Mar. 2018 Correction: A previous version of this article state New World monkeys lack prehensile tails. Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic, "Mysterious Amazon Animal Seen Alive for First Time in 80 Years," 25 Aug. 2017

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

circa 1785, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for prehensile

French préhensile, from Latin prehensus, past participle of prehendere to seize — more at get

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Time Traveler for prehensile

The first known use of prehensile was circa 1785

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More Definitions for prehensile



English Language Learners Definition of prehensile

: capable of grabbing or holding something by wrapping around it


pre·​hen·​sile | \prē-ˈhen-səl \

Kids Definition of prehensile

: capable of grasping something by wrapping around it Some monkeys have a prehensile tail.


pre·​hen·​sile | \prē-ˈhen(t)-səl, -ˈhen-ˌsīl \

Medical Definition of prehensile 

: adapted for seizing or grasping especially by wrapping around prehensile tail

Other Words from prehensile

prehensility \(ˌ)prē-​ˌhen-​ˈsil-​ət-​ē \ noun, plural -ties

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More from Merriam-Webster on prehensile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prehensile

Spanish Central: Translation of prehensile

Nglish: Translation of prehensile for Spanish Speakers

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