verb un·der·stand \ ˌən-dər-ˈstand \
|Updated on: 14 Aug 2018

Definition of understand

understood play \ˌən-dər-ˈstu̇d\; understanding
1 a : 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
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


play \ˌən-dər-ˌstan-də-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun


play \ˌən-dər-ˈstan-də-bəl\ adjective

Examples of understand in a Sentence

  1. I can't understand a word you're saying.

  2. I don't understand these directions.

  3. I want you to stay away from her. Do you understand?

  4. I don't understand how this is supposed to work.

  5. He doesn't really understand the situation.

  6. You should read the book in order to understand more about the subject.

  7. I can't understand why she would do such a thing.

  8. She's beginning to understand what's going on.

  9. You have to understand that I had no other choice.

  10. At first we didn't get along, but I think we understand each other now.

Recent Examples of understand from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of understand

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

UNDERSTAND Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of understand for English Language Learners

  • : 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

UNDERSTAND Defined for Kids


verb un·der·stand \ ˌən-dər-ˈstand \

Definition of understand for Students

understood \-ˈstu̇d\; understanding
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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having an air of easy unconcern

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