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[grasp, grahsp] /græsp, grɑsp/
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.
Origin of grasp
1350-1400; Middle English graspen, grapsen; cognate with Low German grapsen; akin to Old English gegræppian to seize (see grapple)
Related forms
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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for grasp
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Indeed, so strange was his new-found knowledge, that he could not grasp the significance of even half of the facts in his mind.

  • Haley had grasped him by the shoulder, and in his grasp the boy's strength was nothing.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • And he put out his hand to catch the fairy as a child might grasp at a butterfly.

  • No one will deny that the Buddhist, the Mahometan, the Confucianist, have their grasp of truth.

  • My memories swam like little fish that I snatched at, and sometimes they wriggled out of my grasp.

    Little Brother Cory Doctorow
British Dictionary definitions for grasp


to grip (something) firmly with or as if with the hands
when intr, often foll by at. to struggle, snatch, or grope (for)
(transitive) to understand, esp with effort
the act of grasping
a grip or clasp, as of a hand
the capacity to accomplish (esp in the phrase within one's grasp)
total rule or possession
understanding; comprehension
Derived Forms
graspable, adjective
grasper, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Low German grapsen; related to Old English græppian to seize, Old Norse grāpa to steal
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 grasp

mid-14c., "to reach for, feel around," possibly a metathesis of grapsen, from Old English *græpsan "to touch, feel," from Proto-Germanic *grap-, *grab- (cf. East Frisian grapsen "to grasp," Middle Dutch grapen "to seize, grasp," Old English grapian "to touch, feel, grope"), from PIE root *ghrebh- (see grab). Sense of "seize" first recorded mid-16c. Figurative use from c.1600; of intellectual matters from 1680s. Related: Grasped; grasping. The noun is from 1560s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with grasp


In addition to the idiom beginning with grasp also see: get a fix on (grasp of)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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