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 grasp a concept fully and thoroughly, especially (of words, statements, art, etc.) to be aware of the meaning of and (of people) to be aware of the intent of.
    • 1991, Stephen Fry, The Liar, p. 20:
      ‘I came back here, had a wank and finished that book.’
      The Naked Lunch?
      ‘What did you reckon?’
      ‘You're just saying that because you didn't understand it,’ said Adrian.
      ‘I'm just saying that because I did understand it,’ said Tom. ‘Any road up, we'd better start making some toast.’
  2. To believe, to think one grasps sufficiently despite potentially incomplete knowledge.
  3. (humorous, rare, obsolete outside circus, acrobatics) To stand underneath, to support.

Usage notes

  • In its sense of "imputing meaning", use is usually limited to the past participle understood.
  • The obsolete perfect form understanded is occasionally found, e.g. in the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church.


  • (to fully grasp a concept): apprehend, comprehend, grasp, know, perceive, pick up what someone is putting down, realise, grok
  • (to believe one grasps a concept): believe


  • 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, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.


  • unstranded

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