Apprehend vs comprehend

Photo of author


Apprehend and comprehend are two words that sound similar and are spelled in a similar fashion, but have very different meanings. We will examine the difference in meaning between the words apprehend and comprehend, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Apprehend has three very different definitions. Apprehend may mean to take someone into custody on suspicion of having committed a crime. Apprehend may also mean to understand something or to perceive something. It is this meaning which often confuses English speakers, as it means that in some circumstances the word apprehend may be considered a synonym for comprehend. In reality, this definition of apprehend is rarely used in English, today. Finally, apprehend may mean to dread something, to anxiously anticipate something. Related words are apprehends, apprehended, apprehending, apprehension, apprehensive, apprehensible. The word apprehend is derived from the Latin word apprehendere which means to grab hold of.

Comprehend means to understand something or to absorb something mentally. Related words are comprehends, comprehended, comprehending, comprehension, comprehendible, comprehendingly, comprehensive. The word comprehend is derived from the Latin word comprehendere which means to include or unite.


Border officials apprehended an unprecedented number of migrants traveling as a group on Wednesday. (The Texas Standard)

Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation that makes it more difficult for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to apprehend suspected illegal immigrants. (The Daily Caller)

“If anybody sees them or sees anybody who looks like them,” said Major Mitchell, “do not try to apprehend them or approach them.” (The Ville Platte Gazette)

Border Patrol apprehensions of Central Americans from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras rose again this month to 444,509, so far this fiscal year (FY). (The Cato Institute)

Where once was Grace now is Yūgen, an ambitious restaurant named after the Japanese concept of awareness of the universe’s infinite beauty and mystery and our ability, as mere mortals, to comprehend it.  (Fortune Magazine)

Seventy-five years later, it remains difficult to comprehend the pivotal World War II military operation known as D-Day.  (The Daily Inter Lake)

team of scientists has produced one of the most comprehensive assessments of the quantities of different beverages that people drink around the world. (Newsweek Magazine)