[grasp, grahsp]
verb (used with object)
to seize and hold by or as if by clasping with the fingers or arms.
to seize upon; hold firmly.
to get hold of mentally; comprehend; understand: I don't grasp your meaning.
verb (used without object)
to make an attempt to seize, or a motion of seizing, something (usually followed by at or for ): a drowning man grasping at straws; to grasp for an enemy's rifle.
the act of grasping or gripping, as with the hands or arms: to make a grasp at something.
a hold or grip: to have a firm grasp of a rope.
one's arms or hands, in embracing or gripping: He took her in his grasp.
one's power of seizing and holding; reach: to have a thing within one's grasp.
hold, possession, or mastery: to wrest power from the grasp of a usurper.
mental hold or capacity; power to understand.
broad or thorough comprehension: a good grasp of computer programming.

1350–1400; Middle English graspen, grapsen; cognate with Low German grapsen; akin to Old English gegræppian to seize (see grapple)

graspable, adjective
grasper, noun
graspless, adjective
regrasp, verb (used with object)
ungraspable, adjective
ungrasped, adjective

1. grip, clutch; grab. See catch. 9. clutches. 10. scope, comprehension. Grasp, reach refer to the power of seizing, either concretely or figuratively. Grasp suggests actually seizing and closing the hand upon something (or, figuratively, thoroughly comprehending something) and therefore refers to what is within one's possession or immediate possibility of possession: a good grasp of a problem; immense mental grasp. Reach suggests a stretching out of (usually) the hand to touch, strike, or, if possible, seize something; it therefore refers to a potentiality of possession that requires an effort. Figuratively, it implies perhaps a faint conception of something still too far beyond one to be definitely and clearly understood.

1. release. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To grasp
World English Dictionary
grasp (ɡrɑːsp)
vb (when intr, often foll by at)
1.  to grip (something) firmly with or as if with the hands
2.  to struggle, snatch, or grope (for)
3.  (tr) to understand, esp with effort
4.  the act of grasping
5.  a grip or clasp, as of a hand
6.  the capacity to accomplish (esp in the phrase within one's grasp)
7.  total rule or possession
8.  understanding; comprehension
[C14: from Low German grapsen; related to Old English græppian to seize, Old Norse grāpa to steal]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1382, possibly metathesis of O.E. *græpsan "to touch, feel," from P.Gmc. *graipison (cf. E.Fris. grapsen "to grasp"), from root *graip (see grope). Originally "to reach for, feel around;" sense of "seize" first recorded mid-16c.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idiom beginning with grasp, also see get a fix on (grasp of).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Grasp the similarities, and you can start to understand the differences.
In order to understand how this new technique works, it is important to grasp the basics of the human knee.
Plenty of them are leaving town, wanting as much space as possible from the ghosts and the day's enduring grasp.
The best way to help political evil's victims is to grasp why they are being victimized.
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