synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples & translations of understand in English

English Online Dictionary. What means understand‎? What does understand mean?


Alternative forms

  • understaund (obsolete)


From Middle English understanden, from Old English understandan (to understand), from Proto-Germanic *under (between) + *standaną (to stand), equivalent to Old English under- (between, inter-) + standan (to stand). Cognate with Old Frisian understonda (to understand, experience, learn), Old High German understantan (to understand), Middle Danish understande (to understand). Compare also Saterland Frisian understunda, unnerstounde (to dare, survey, measure), Dutch onderstaan (to undertake, presume), German unterstehen (to be subordinate). More at inter-, stand.


  • (Received Pronunciation) enPR: ŭn(′)dər-stănd', IPA(key): /(ˌ)ʌndəˈstænd/,
  • (General American) enPR: ŭn′dər-stănd', IPA(key): /ˌʌndɚˈstænd/, [ˌʌɾ̃ɚˈstænd], [ˌʌɾ̃ɚˈsteə̯nd]
  • (Ireland) IPA(key): /ˌɞndəɹˈstand/
  • Rhymes: -ænd
  • Hyphenation: un‧der‧stand


understand (third-person singular simple present understands, present participle understanding, simple past and past participle understood)

  1. (transitive) To be aware of the meaning of.
    • (Can we date this quote?) William Shakespeare
      I understand not what you mean by this.
  2. To believe, based on information.
  3. To impute meaning, character etc. that is not explicitly stated.
    In this sense, the word is usually used in the past participle:
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Locke
      The most learned interpreters understood the words of sin, and not of Abel.
  4. (obsolete, rare, humorous) To stand under; to support.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  5. (circus, acrobatics) One who supports others in such performances as the human pyramid.

Usage notes

  • Common objects of this verb include text, word(s), sentence(s), note(s), etc.
  • Rarely, the obsolete past tense form understanded may be found, e.g. in the Book of Common Prayer and Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Church.


  • (to know the meaning): apprehend, comprehend, grasp, know, perceive, pick up what someone is putting down, realise, grok
  • (to believe): believe
  • (in circus, acrobatics): bottom man


  • misunderstand

Derived terms


See also

  • explain
  • why

Further reading

  • understand in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • understand in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911


  • unstranded

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