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Apprehend vs Comprehend

Apprehend and comprehend mean to lay hold of something with the mind so as to know it but together with their derivative nouns apprehension and comprehension are clearly distinguished in psychological use.

Apprehend and apprehension do not imply attainment of full knowledge or of complete understanding but only a glimpsing of the nature, meaning, or significance of the object of thought; comprehend (see also UNDERSTAND) and comprehension imply an understanding of the object of thought in its entire compass and extent.

Apprehend may suggest a single act of the mind and comprehend a complex and laborious process, but this distinction is not so essential as that between imperfect and perfect understanding; thus, one apprehends many things (as infinity or beauty) which one can never comprehend; one apprehends many things as a child (as mother love) which one does not comprehend until late in life.

  • who shall say how quickly the babe apprehends the relation between the causative howl and its effect, the demanded ministration?
  • the thirteenth century which cared little to comprehend anything except the incomprehensible
    Henry Adams