pre·​hen·​sile | \ prē-ˈhen(t)-səl How to pronounce prehensile (audio) , -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 How to pronounce prehensile (audio) \ 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 Her long, prehensile snout searched pockets and opened doors. David Reamer, Anchorage Daily News, "How a 1960s publicity stunt landed a baby elephant named Annabelle in Alaska," 7 Dec. 2020 Bettmann, via Getty Images Residents of the White House have had fur and feathers, claws and hooves, scales, stripes and prehensile tails. New York Times, "When the White House Was Full of Claws, Scales, Stripes and Tails," 14 Nov. 2020 The form stuns with visceral color, prehensile line, and the most insinuative brushwork of any modern painter, all indirectly nourished by Guston’s passionate reverence for Renaissance masters. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "Philip Guston and the Boundaries of Art Culture," 12 Oct. 2020 WKRC-TV's Bob Herzog and Zoo Director Thane Maynard will cohost the event, featuring special guests Fiona the hippo, Rico the prehensile porcupine and other Cincinnati Zoo celebrities. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, "See Fiona and bid on behind-the-scenes Zoo experiences at free, virtual 'Zoofari' event," 11 Sep. 2020 As their name suggests, brushtails have long, thick tails with a prehensile tip and a furless patch on the underside, both of which help them hang onto tree branches. National Geographic, "Possums," 6 Mar. 2020 Although Hollywood tends to focus on their teeth, grizzlies have prehensile lips that are perfect for stripping berries off branches, and their claws are ideal for digging up roots and turning over rocks to look for insects. Brent Crane, Discover Magazine, "Grizzly Bears Might Return to California. Is the State Ready?," 12 Mar. 2019 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

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of prehensile was circa 1785

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Last Updated

17 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prehensile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for prehensile


How to pronounce prehensile (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of prehensile

technical : capable of grabbing or holding something by wrapping around it


pre·​hen·​sile | \ prē-ˈhen-səl How to pronounce prehensile (audio) \

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 How to pronounce prehensile (audio) , -ˈhen-ˌsīl How to pronounce prehensile (audio) \

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 How to pronounce prehensile (audio) \ noun, plural prehensilities

More from Merriam-Webster on prehensile

Nglish: Translation of prehensile for Spanish Speakers

Comments on prehensile

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