Definition of prehensile in US English:



  • (chiefly of an animal's limb or tail) capable of grasping.

    ‘many monkeys have long, prehensile tails which they use in swinging through the trees’
    • ‘The plate in the field guide shows a strange, golden-brown animal with a prehensile tail, hook-like claws and a funny snub nose.’
    • ‘Coendou and Sphiggurus are arboreal animals, with long, spineless, prehensile tails and wide foot pads.’
    • ‘Their prehensile tails enable them to grasp branches, especially as they climb downward, and to balance on tree branches.’
    • ‘Nocturnal and arboreal, they clamber up trees and hang from limbs thanks to long prehensile tails and opposable inside toes (like thumbs) on their hind feet.’
    • ‘This animal has a prehensile tail, which means it lives in the treetops.’


Late 18th century: from French préhensile, from Latin prehens- ‘grasped’, from the verb prehendere, from prae ‘before’ + hendere ‘to grasp’.