Definition of comprehension in English:



mass noun
  • 1The ability to understand something.

    ‘some won't have the least comprehension of what I'm trying to do’
    ‘the comprehension of spoken language’
    • ‘Bells and whistles don't necessarily improve comprehension, says Mathie.’
    • ‘Her mother looked at her for a moment before comprehension dawned on her face.’
    • ‘Despite the anxiety that went with less than full comprehension, he took the job.’
    • ‘Success in the math lesson was not dependent on the students' full comprehension of mathematical problems or questions.’
    • ‘On the other hand, reading the texts from two different perspectives may improve comprehension.’
    • ‘Both types of curriculum encompass listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and grammar components.’
    • ‘Since you are striving for something that is basically beyond your comprehension and ability, you cannot trust yourself to do all the right things to get you there.’
    • ‘Letter matching was also found to predict significantly reading comprehension in later elementary school.’
    • ‘And how such reading exercises would help genuine poets replenish their language defies comprehension.’
    • ‘Do not mistake my accent for poor comprehension of your language.’
    • ‘I admit it is a big challenge for my English listening comprehension.’
    • ‘To enhance comprehension, workbooks contain lessons but not headings or titles.’
    • ‘When reading comprehension is assessed through writing, these difficulties are compounded.’
    • ‘What makes the red heifer so interesting is that it is beyond human comprehension.’
    • ‘How do I decode such an obtuse dialect with my mere mortal comprehension of the English language?’
    • ‘The passage of time and the limits of the written record have rendered full comprehension unobtainable.’
    • ‘Instead of that sixth-grade math class, I think maybe Murray needs a few remedial lessons in verbal comprehension.’
    • ‘It is simply beyond a tourist's comprehension to understand why such ancient monuments, which do not require maintenance on a weekly basis, are closed once a week.’
    • ‘According to Wolf and Bowers, they may also show problems in reading comprehension.’
    • ‘The look changed to one of dawning comprehension and the guard turned to shout a warning.’
    understanding, ability to understand, grasp, grip, conception, apprehension, cognition, cognizance, ken, knowledge, awareness, perception, discernment
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1British The setting of questions on a set text to test understanding, as a school exercise.
      as modifier ‘comprehension exercises’
      • ‘The comprehensions and the questions on them were lovely.’
      • ‘On other occasions a maths worksheet or a written comprehension exercise might be the homework activity.’
      • ‘The comprehensions are normally difficult but it was really manageable.’
      • ‘I dare say that these days children aren't faced with a reading list, to be followed up by a series of comprehension exercises.’
      • ‘In my office I was able to cut stencils on a heavy-duty office typewriter and run off sheets of grammar, comprehension and writing exercises on the office Gestetner duplicator.’
      • ‘She said the comprehensions at ordinary level were a bit difficult and the grammar was as hard as at higher level but the topics should have been of interest to students.’
      • ‘One of the comprehensions, dealing with the Irish Army involvement with the UN, he felt was okay.’
      • ‘The comprehensions were challenging but in the composition section the varied choice of essay titles in general satisfied the students.’
      • ‘Materials include comprehension questions and ideas for discussion or accompanying activities and games.’
  • 2archaic Inclusion.

    1. 2.1historical The inclusion of Nonconformists within the Established Church of England (as proposed in the 17th to 19th centuries but not adopted).


Late Middle English: from French compréhension or Latin comprehensio(n-), from the verb comprehendere ‘seize, comprise’ (see comprehend).