Definition of grasp in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ɡrasp/


[with object]
1Seize and hold firmly: she grasped the bottle
More example sentences
  • Her eyes pleaded with him, her hand still firmly grasping his.
  • Still firmly grasping Ethan by the arm, Giles propelled him to Melissa's side.
  • John grasped Rob firmly by the wrist and moved toward the door.
grip, clutch, clasp, hold, clench;
catch, seize, grab, snatch, latch on to
1.1 [no object] (grasp at) Try to seize hold of: they grasped at each other with numbed fingers they had grasped at any means to overthrow him
More example sentences
  • I grasped at the ground to find leverage so I could stand up.
  • ‘I don't understand,’ she said weakly, her hands grasping at the fabric of red gown for support.
  • One hand grasps at another, only to slip and grab at a ledge, only to slip again, suspending cinematic apprehension for a maddening 25 minutes.
1.2Get mental hold of; comprehend fully: the way in which children could grasp complex ideas
More example sentences
  • Here again, the significance of this development can only be fully grasped on the basis of Marx's analysis of the commodity form.
  • The ultimate power of advances such as cable and satellite could not be fully grasped in the 1960s.
  • I know that this state of affairs is not fully grasped by the general public in Europe and North America.
understand, comprehend, follow, take in, perceive, see, apprehend, assimilate, absorb
informal get, catch on to, figure out, get one's head around, take on board
1.3Act decisively to the advantage of (something): we must grasp the opportunities offered
take advantage of, act on;
seize, leap at, snatch, jump at, pounce on


[in singular]
1A firm hold or grip: the child slipped from her grasp
More example sentences
  • Scott stepped forward, and took my hand in a firm grasp, kissing it lightly.
  • She tried to rip her wrist out of his grip but his grasp was too firm.
  • He placed a firm grasp on her shoulders and looked into her eyes that were welled with tears.
grip, hold;
clutch, clasp, clench
control, power, clutches, command, domination, rule, tyranny
1.1A person’s power or capacity to attain something: he knew success was within his grasp
More example sentences
  • There are those who snigger that it was a fine strategy by the old comrades, who have perfected the art of using each other for keeping power within their grasp.
  • But the grasp of politicians on power is not likely to loosen quickly and the alternative democratic leadership is slow to develop.
  • Many are walking around dazed and bewildered at the shape of things and the grasp of power.
reach, scope, power, limits, range;
1.2A person’s understanding: meanings that are beyond my grasp his grasp of detail
More example sentences
  • You have to understand and have a grasp of what is going to happen.
  • They were encouraged to solve their own problems, which, I suspect, gave them an intuitive grasp of the concept that not all problems can be solved.
  • Linux novices often find virtual memory mysterious, but with a grasp of the fundamental concepts, it's easy to understand.
understanding, comprehension, perception, apprehension, awareness, grip, knowledge;
mastery, command



grasp at straws (or a straw)

see straw.

grasp the nettle

British Tackle a difficulty boldly.
Because a nettle stings when touched lightly, but not when grasped firmly
Example sentences
  • Tackling mental health, grasping the nettle of introducing rights-based legislation will come at a cost.
  • He said: ‘I am pleased that the Prime Minister is now re-examining my proposals but we shall see whether the Government really grasps the nettle regarding this issue.’
  • He warned the country could be facing another crisis unless the next Government grasps the nettle of public spending.



Pronunciation: /ˈɡraspəb(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • The assumption is that things graspable by intellect alone belong to a realm above the material, corporeal world and hence are timeless.
  • For another thing, it robs you of the kind of moral focus that makes for more unambiguous, and thus easily graspable, art.
  • Just as a nuclear physicist can say words that have no meaning to me, an actor can use the words ‘rhythm’ or ‘intention’, and mean something very specific that is not easily graspable by those who haven't studied it.


Example sentences
  • It's time for them to stand up to the grabbers and graspers.
  • These trocars allow for passage of long, fiber-optic telescopes and narrow instruments, such as graspers, scissors, babcocks, and staplers, to perform the surgical procedure.
  • The graspers get more food, more resources and will always out-compete the misers, because when there are resources, the misers get less for their children.


Late Middle English: perhaps related to grope.

Words that rhyme with grasp

clasp, gasp, hasp, rasp

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: grasp

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.