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[pri-hen-sil, -sahyl] /prɪˈhɛn sɪl, -saɪl/
adapted for seizing, grasping, or taking hold of something:
a prehensile tail.
able to perceive quickly; having keen mental grasp.
greedy; grasping; avaricious.
Origin of prehensile
1781-85; < French préhensile (coined by Buffon), equivalent to Latin prehens(us) (see prehension) + French -ile -ile
Related forms
[pree-hen-sil-i-tee] /ˌpri hɛnˈsɪl ɪ ti/ (Show IPA),
nonprehensile, adjective
subprehensile, adjective
subprehensility, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for prehensile
  • The prehensile trunk of the tapir has changed little in millions of years of evolution.
  • The white hook on the left is a standard prehensile hook.
  • The all-conquering maker of bendy, magnet-tipped prehensile tripods is slowly turning into a flashlight company.
  • It seems to have lacked a trunk but may have had a prehensile upper lip.
  • Manipulative, prehensile appendages to grasp and alter surroundings.
  • Howler monkeys have prehensile tails, or tails that can grip.
  • It is akin, rather, to the mathematical or musical prodigy's prehensile grasp of hidden structures.
  • The hairless tail is prehensile, useful for stability in climbing trees.
  • Inspect your coccyx to see if you have a prehensile tail attached.
  • Has a prehensile tail that aids in its ability to climb.
British Dictionary definitions for prehensile


adapted for grasping, esp by wrapping around a support: a prehensile tail
Derived Forms
prehensility (ˌpriːhɛnˈsɪlɪtɪ) noun
Word Origin
C18: from French préhensile, from Latin prehendere to grasp
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for prehensile

1771, from French préhensile "adapted for grasping" (Buffon), from Latin prehensus, past participle of prehendere "to grasp, to seize," from prae- "before" (see pre-) + -hendere, related to hedera "ivy," via notion of "clinging," and cognate with Greek khandanein "to take in, hold" (see get (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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prehensile in Medicine

prehensile pre·hen·sile (prē-hěn'səl, -sīl')
Adapted for seizing, grasping, or holding, especially by wrapping around an object.

pre'hen·sil'i·ty (-sĭl'ĭ-tē) n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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prehensile in Science
Adapted for seizing, grasping, or holding, especially by wrapping around an object. The feet of many birds, the tails of monkeys, and the trunks of elephants are prehensile.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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