un·​der·​stand ˌən-dər-ˈstand How to pronounce understand (audio)
understood ˌən-dər-ˈstu̇d How to pronounce understand (audio) ; understanding

transitive verb

: to grasp the meaning of
understand Russian
: to grasp the reasonableness of
his behavior is hard to understand
: to have thorough or technical acquaintance with or expertness in the practice of
understand finance
: to be thoroughly familiar with the character and propensities of
understands children
: to accept as a fact or truth or regard as plausible without utter certainty
we understand that he is returning from abroad
: to interpret in one of a number of possible ways
: to supply in thought as though expressed
"to be married" is commonly understood after the word engaged

intransitive verb

: to have understanding : have the power of comprehension
: to achieve a grasp of the nature, significance, or explanation of something
: to believe or infer something to be the case
: to show a sympathetic or tolerant attitude toward something
understandability noun
understandable adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for understand

understand, comprehend, appreciate mean to have a clear or complete idea of.

understand and comprehend are very often interchangeable.

understand may, however, stress the fact of having attained a firm mental grasp of something.

orders that were fully understood and promptly obeyed

comprehend may stress the process of coming to grips with something intellectually.

I have trouble comprehending your reasons for doing this

appreciate implies a just evaluation or judgment of a thing's value or nature.

failed to appreciate the risks involved

Examples of understand in a Sentence

I can't understand a word you're saying. I don't understand these directions. I want you to stay away from her. Do you understand? I don't understand how this is supposed to work. He doesn't really understand the situation. You should read the book in order to understand more about the subject. I can't understand why she would do such a thing. She's beginning to understand what's going on. You have to understand that I had no other choice. At first we didn't get along, but I think we understand each other now. See More
Recent Examples on the Web At a club, most people already understand that they will be judged for their appearance. Michael Waters, The Atlantic, 29 Sep. 2023 Tatcha Water Cream Life is about balance, a motto understood and applied by Tatcha’s Water Cream. Anamaria Glavan, Allure, 29 Sep. 2023 Dianne understood that, at the end of the day, politics is about people, and the decisions politicians make affect people's lives. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, 29 Sep. 2023 Ice understands the value in fending off her peers, always in a playful yet mildly contentious way. Steven J. Horowitz, Variety, 28 Sep. 2023 His campaign understood how to command the attention—and respect—of Latino communities, portraying Reagan, in TV and radio ads, as a conservative family man. Stephania Taladrid, The New Yorker, 28 Sep. 2023 Still, few renters fully understand the byzantine contracts or the laws that govern them. Chelsia Rose Marcius, New York Times, 28 Sep. 2023 Be sure to immerse yourself in both sides of this rich city in order to best understand its history. Meagan Drillinger, Travel + Leisure, 28 Sep. 2023 Emily Martin, the vice president for education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center, believes that if people better understood the advantages given to men, the national conversation about affirmative action might look very different. Susan Dominus, New York Times, 8 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'understand.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Old English understandan, from under + standan to stand

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of understand was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near understand

Cite this Entry

“Understand.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/understand. Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


un·​der·​stand ˌən-dər-ˈstand How to pronounce understand (audio)
understood -ˈstu̇d How to pronounce understand (audio) ; understanding
: to get the meaning of : comprehend
: to have thorough acquaintance with
understand the arts
: to have reason to believe : gather, infer
I understand that they will arrive today
: to take as meaning something not openly made known : interpret, explain
understand the letter to be a refusal
: to have a sympathetic attitude
my cousin doesn't understand about these things
: to supply in thought as if expressed
"to be married" is commonly understood after the word "engaged"
understandable adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on understand

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