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apprehend, v.

Frequency (in current use): 
Etymology: < French appréhende-r (15th cent. in Godefroy), < Latin apprehendĕre  , adprehendĕre   to lay hold of, seize, < ad   to + prehendĕre   to seize. In the contracted form apprendĕre  , the word survived in the Romance languages in the figurative sense ‘lay hold with the mind, comprehend, learn,’ whence also later ‘teach, inform’: compare French apprendre  , and English apprise v.1   Subsequently, the full apprehendĕre   was taken into French and English in its original form and sense. apprend v.   is occasionally in 16–17th cent.
 I. Physical.

 a. To lay hold upon, seize, with hands, teeth, etc. Also said of fire, and figuratively of trembling, fear, etc. Obsolete or archaic.

1572   J. Bossewell Wks. Armorie iii. f. 5   A great quakyng and tremblyng dyd apprehende hys hande.
1607   E. Topsell Hist. Foure-footed Beastes 156   His dogs..apprehending the garments of passengers.
1613   Life William I in Harl. Misc. (1793) 28   A fire began..which apprehending certain shops and warehouses, etc.
c1643   Maximes Unf. 8   Fury and affrightment apprehend the desperate.
1645   S. Rutherford Tryal & Trivmph of Faith (1845) 63   A lame hand that cannot apprehend.
1843   E. Jones Stud. Sensation & Event 122   While those two lips his brow did apprehend.

1572—1843(Hide quotations)


b. transferred. To seize upon, take down, in writing. figurative. To seize upon (points of a subject). Obsolete.

1611   T. Coryate Crudities sig. Nn5v   I apprehended it [sc. an epitaph] with my pen while the Preacher was in his pulpit.
1615   T. Adams Spirituall Nauigator 24 in Blacke Devill   I will onely apprehend so much, as may serue to exemplifie this dangerous world.

1611—1615(Hide quotations)


 2. To seize (a person) in name of law, to arrest.

1548   N. Udall et al. tr. Erasmus Paraphr. Newe Test. I. John vii. 1 (R.)   To fynde sum occasion..to attache and apprehende him.
1642   D. Rogers Naaman 44   Paul..going like a Pursivant..to Damascus, to apprehend the Saints there.
1768   W. Blackstone Comm. Laws Eng. IV. 287   A justice of the peace cannot issue a warrant to apprehend a felon upon bare suspicion.
1855   Macaulay Hist. Eng. III. 328   Troops had been sent to apprehend him.

1548—1855(Hide quotations)


3. To seize upon for one's own, take possession of. Also figurative. Obsolete.

a1522   G. Douglas tr. Virgil Æneid (1960) xi. vii. 70   Ellis quhar..forto wend, Thar duellyng place for ay to apprehend.
1611   Bible (King James) Phil. iii. 12   If that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Iesus.  
1652   M. Nedham tr. J. Selden Of Dominion of Sea 21   That Vacancies are his who apprehend's them first by occupation.

a1522—1652(Hide quotations)


4. To seize or embrace (an offer or opportunity).

1586   T. Bowes tr. P. de la Primaudaye French Acad. I. 805   If we apprehend not that great grace and mercy of the father offered to all.
a1631   J. Donne Βιαθανατος (1647) ii. vi. §5   If he apprehend not, an opportunity to escape.
1633   Bp. J. Hall Plaine Explic. Hard Texts ii. 56   His faith, whereby he did firmely apprehend the..aid of his eternall Father.

1586—1633(Hide quotations)

 II. Mental.

5. gen. To learn, gain practical acquaintance with. Also absol. (The earliest use in English; cf. French apprendre.) Obsolete.

a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add. 27944) (1975) I. ii. ii. 61   He..holdeth in mynde..withoute forȜeting alle þat he apprehendith.
1531   T. Elyot Bk. named Gouernour iii. xiii. sig. ciij   Therby they prouoke many men to apprehende vertue.
a1680   S. Butler Genuine Remains (1759) I. 204   Children..Improve their nat'ral Talents without Care, And apprehend, before they are aware.

a1398—a1680(Hide quotations)


 6. To become or be conscious by the senses of (any external impression).

a1634   W. Austin Devotionis Augustinianæ Flamma (1635) 60   When this Light shone in darkenesse, and our darkenesse, though it apprehended, yet it comprehended it not.
1651   T. Hobbes Leviathan iii. xxxiv. 212   That caused Agar supernaturally to apprehend a voice from heaven.
1855   A. Bain Senses & Intellect ii. i. 369   If I see..two candle flames, I apprehend them as different objects.

a1634—1855(Hide quotations)


7. To feel emotionally, be sensible of, feel the force of. Obsolete.

1592   T. Nashe Pierce Penilesse (Brit. Libr. copy) sig. I   The..soules of them that haue no power to apprehend such felicitie.
1607   B. Jonson Volpone ii. i. sig. D2v   Dead. Lord! how deepely Sir you apprehend it.  
1670   I. Walton Life R. Hooker 29 in Lives   That [kindness] was so gratefully apprehended by M. Hooker.

1592—1670(Hide quotations)

 8. To lay hold of with the intellect:

 a. to perceive the existence of, recognize, see.

1577   T. Vautrollier tr. M. Luther Comm. Epist. to Galathians (new ed.) f. 5   Who so doth not understand or apprehend this righteousness in afflictions and terrors of conscience.
1623   C. Butler Feminine Monarchie (rev. ed.) Pref. sig. A2   There is not halfe that worth in Mee, Which I haue apprehended in a Bee.
1743   J. Morris Serm. vii. 184   We shall apprehend reason to conclude, that..they were not so very young.
1872   R. Browning Fifine lxxi. 7   Each man..avails him of what worth He apprehends in you.

1577—1872(Hide quotations)


 b. to catch the meaning or idea of; to understand.

1631   T. Heywood Londons Ius Honorarium 279   As soone known as showne, and apprehended as read.
1755   B. Martin Mag. Arts & Sci. i. xiii. 87   This is all so plain, that I can't but apprehend it.
1849   Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. 463   The nature of the long contest between the Stuarts and their parliaments, was indeed very imperfectly apprehended by foreign statesmen.
1871   C. Davies Metric Syst. ii. 24   To apprehend distinctly the signification of a number, two things are necessary.

1631—1871(Hide quotations)


 c. absol. or with subordinate clause.

1600   Shakespeare Much Ado about Nothing ii. i. 73   Cosin you apprehend passing shrewdly.  
1655   T. Stanley Hist. Philos. I. i. 92   Periander..immediately apprehended that he advised him to put the most eminent in the City to death.
1712   R. Steele Spectator No. 532. ⁋2   I cannot apprehend where lyes the trifling in all this.
1785   T. Reid Ess. Intellect. Powers i. i   No one can explain by a Logical Definition what it is to think, to apprehend.

1600—1785(Hide quotations)


 a. To understand (a thing to be so and so); to conceive, consider, view, take (it) as.

1639   T. Fuller Hist. Holy Warre iv. ix. 183   They apprehended it a great courtesie done unto them.
1736   J. Wesley Wks. (1830) I. 100   I apprehended myself to be near death.
1858   W. E. Gladstone Stud. Homer III. 393   The eternal laws, such as the heroic age apprehended them.

1639—1858(Hide quotations)


 b. absol. or with subordinate clause.

1631   B. Jonson Bartholmew Fayre i. iv. 8 in Wks. II   If hee apprehend you flout him, once, he will flie at you.
1775   J. Lyon in J. Sparks Corr. Amer. Revol. (1853) I. 101   I apprehend that secrecy is as necessary now as ever it was.
1839   H. Hallam Introd. Lit. Europe iv. vi. 462   In general, I apprehend, the later French critics, have given the preference to Racine.

1631—1839(Hide quotations)


 10. To anticipate, look forward to, expect (mostly things adverse).

a1616   Shakespeare Measure for Measure (1623) iv. ii. 144   A man that apprehends death no more dreadfully, but as a drunken sleepe.  
1749   H. Fielding Tom Jones I. iii. iii. 168   A triumphant Question, to which he had apprehended no Answer.  
1879   A. W. Tourgée Fool's Errand ii. 11   Love had taught her with unerring accuracy to apprehend the evil which impended.

a1616—1879(Hide quotations)

 11. To anticipate with fear or dread; to be fearful concerning; to fear.

 a. with object.

1609   Shakespeare Troilus & Cressida iii. ii. 71   O let my Lady apprehend no feare.  
1643   Sir T. Browne Religio Medici (authorized ed.) i. §54   Which makes me much apprehend the ends of those honest Worthies.  
1702   Eng. Theophrastus 53   He apprehends every breath of air as much as if it were a Hurricane.
1832   H. Martineau Hill & Valley xiii. 125   No one..could think..that any further violence was to be apprehended.

1609—1832(Hide quotations)


 b. with subordinate clause. To be apprehensive, to fear.

1753   M. Delany Autobiogr. & Corr. (1861) III. 210   I don't apprehend that even the Bath could hurt her.
1863   N. Hawthorne Our Old Home I. 193   I sometimes apprehend that our institutions may perish.

1753—1863(Hide quotations)


This entry has not yet been fully updated (first published 1885).

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