un·der·stand | \ ˌən-dər-ˈstand \
understood\ˌən-dər-ˈstu̇d \; understanding

Definition of understand 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to grasp the meaning of understand Russian

b : to grasp the reasonableness of his behavior is hard to understand

c : to have thorough or technical acquaintance with or expertness in the practice of understand finance

d : to be thoroughly familiar with the character and propensities of understands children

2 : to accept as a fact or truth or regard as plausible without utter certainty we understand that he is returning from abroad

3 : to interpret in one of a number of possible ways

4 : to supply in thought as though expressed "to be married" is commonly understood after the word engaged

intransitive verb

1 : to have understanding : have the power of comprehension

2 : to achieve a grasp of the nature, significance, or explanation of something

3 : to believe or infer something to be the case

4 : to show a sympathetic or tolerant attitude toward something

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Other words from understand


understandability \ˌən-dər-ˌstan-də-ˈbi-lə-tē \ noun
understandable \ˌən-dər-ˈstan-də-bəl \ 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Hamas will have to understand that there is a price to be paid.’’ Later, witnesses reported that Israeli warplanes dropped four bombs on a building near a Hamas police and security compound in Gaza City, reducing the old structure to rubble. Aron Heller, BostonGlobe.com, "Israel exchanges intense fire with Hamas militants in Gaza," 14 July 2018 Journalists at El Faro in El Salvador, which was founded 20 years ago, recently started using tools like Google Analytics to understand and expand their audience. The Economist, "Latin America’s new media are growing up," 14 July 2018 Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Barack Obama's New Summer Reading List Has a Theme," 13 July 2018 The issue of what causes cancer can be difficult for people to understand. NBC News, "Johnson & Johnson talc verdict goes against what is known about cancer," 13 July 2018 But when federal authorities arrived days later to study the circumstances, their aim wasn’t to second guess so much as to understand what happened and pass on those lessons. Mike Hendricks, kansascity, "In a tragic loop, firefighters continue to die from preventable mistakes," 13 July 2018 Crucially, families can come to understand that a loved one died of infection because of a flawed gene. Claudia Wallis, Scientific American, "Extreme Flu? Weird Encephalitis? It May Be Your Genes," 13 July 2018 Over two and a half years and many Pinocchios later, now-President Trump still doesn’t seem to understand how NATO works. Meg Kelly, Washington Post, "Many fact checks later President Trump is (still) botching NATO spending," 13 July 2018 To be a player associated with it is to understand a final call-up might not be too far away. Jordan Guskey, Indianapolis Star, "Mitch Keller excited to represent Indianapolis Indians in Futures Game," 13 July 2018

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


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

History and Etymology for understand


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

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Last Updated

11 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for understand

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

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More Definitions for understand



English Language Learners Definition of understand

: to know the meaning of (something, such as the words that someone is saying or a language)

: to know how (something) works or happens

: to know how (someone) thinks, feels, or behaves


un·der·stand | \ ˌən-dər-ˈstand \
understood\-ˈstu̇d \; understanding

Kids Definition of understand

1 : to get the meaning of Do you understand my instructions?

2 : to know thoroughly I understand Spanish. She understands the situation.

3 : to have reason to believe I understand that they will come today.

4 : to take as meaning something not clearly made known I understand the letter to be a refusal.

5 : to have a sympathetic attitude Don't worry, I understand how you feel.

6 : to accept as settled It is understood that I will pay.

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Comments on understand

What made you want to look up understand? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


occurring twice a year or every two years

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