Definition of understand in English:



  • 1[with object] Perceive the intended meaning of (words, a language, or speaker)

    ‘he didn't understand a word I said’
    ‘he could usually make himself understood’
    [with clause] ‘she understood what he was saying’
    • ‘Somehow between our languages we were able to make ourselves understood.’
    • ‘Maxwell was seconds away from challenging the man about it when he discovered the guy was Italian and hadn't understood a word.’
    • ‘I didn't understand a word of the German they were singing in, but that didn't seem to matter at all.’
    • ‘Discovering how other languages work helps you understand your own better.’
    • ‘She looked at me with no expression at all as if she didn't understand a word I'd said.’
    • ‘For the most part, speakers of different dialects can make themselves understood to speakers of other dialects.’
    • ‘The Armenian language has many dialects, some of which cannot be understood by speakers of other dialects.’
    • ‘It was virtually impossible to hear a word anyone was saying or to make yourself understood.’
    • ‘Sometimes it is difficult to make yourself understood even by those who share your language.’
    • ‘We spoke the same minority language, and understood the same underground symbols.’
    • ‘I was already fluent in French and Spanish so it was not difficult to understand another Latin language.’
    • ‘At my workplace my boss gets the children to memorise great tracks of English, but they don't understand a word of it.’
    • ‘For whatever reason he had formed the erroneous impression that she did not understand the Creole language.’
    • ‘I do not understand the words these motorcycle guys are saying yet the language they speak is universal.’
    • ‘Even someone who did not know English would have understood every word.’
    • ‘I knew very little Spanish when I came here, but I have been learning and can now make myself understood.’
    • ‘We knew that he had never been to school and yet he could speak so fluently and be understood by first language speakers.’
    • ‘Computers can use language, but they can't use and understand words.’
    • ‘To top it all off, half of the actresses sound like they're trying to speak English without understanding a word of it.’
    • ‘They must take the initiative to understand indigenous languages and cultures.’
    1. 1.1 Perceive the significance, explanation, or cause of (something)
      ‘she didn't really understand the situation’
      [with clause] ‘he couldn't understand why we burst out laughing’
      [no object] ‘you don't understand—she has left me’
      • ‘This point is pretty widely understood by people following or reporting on this story.’
      • ‘I just want to understand what the practical significance of this issue is.’
      • ‘Its significance has not been fully understood because of controversy over its dating.’
      • ‘Wise woman that she was, she understood this was a situation where she didn't belong.’
      • ‘It was because I hardly understood and grasped the situation myself.’
      • ‘It was a credit to the council and, while it was a very costly facility, it could now be understood why the cost was so high.’
      • ‘I think we understood each other's situation, almost to the point that you become protective of each other.’
      • ‘I don't believe he understood very well the significance of the date.’
      • ‘This must be clearly understood by everyone and I think the situation will become much better in that case.’
      • ‘Without this perspective, the significance of the case cannot be fully understood.’
      • ‘The real significance of new IT devices can also now be understood better.’
      • ‘It's so simple, but it can never be understood or mastered.’
      • ‘He understands how volatile this situation is.’
      • ‘I am afraid I have to say that I find that explanation difficult to understand.’
      • ‘What needs to be understood about the situation is that both leaders are hostage to their own constituencies.’
      • ‘Everything makes sense when you're little, because what you don't understand you invent an explanation for.’
      • ‘I've gotten some sympathy from a girlfriend, who says she doesn't understand the situation either - she understands me and where I am on it, just not him.’
      • ‘If Nancy comes across as too mercenary, her situation must be understood.’
      • ‘This situation is better understood through lenses of conflict theory.’
      • ‘I'm not sure I understood much about the situation in the region.’
      comprehend, apprehend, grasp, see, take in, perceive, discern, make out, puzzle out, recognize, keep up with, master, get to know, follow, fathom, get to the bottom of, penetrate, divine, interpret, unravel, decipher, see the light about, envisage
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    2. 1.2 Be sympathetically or knowledgeably aware of the character or nature of.
      ‘Picasso understood color’
      [with clause] ‘I understand how you feel’
      • ‘I don't think she quite understands me very well.’
      • ‘Given the pressure he was under, I understood and even sympathized.’
      • ‘I never quite felt I understood her or what she was after.’
      • ‘I have been obsessed by this, trying to understand the very nature of my existence.’
      • ‘One would believe that pain would be socially understood and somewhat sympathized with.’
      • ‘And surely part of the problem was that while everyone thought they knew him, he kind of pointedly revealed that nobody ever quite understood him.’
      • ‘However, as someone who understands Australia quite well, I wish to suggest entrepreneurs be cautious about it.’
      • ‘There's a sense that this guy is not quite understanding enough or sympathetic enough to the allies' point of view.’
      • ‘I didn't quite understand myself how I could love him so much.’
      • ‘In the case of Nora, I refused to start writing her as a character until I truly understood her.’
      • ‘In order for a reader to understand a story, the characters must be understood.’
      • ‘Misha was alone, and she was aware that few people understood her.’
      • ‘The provinces did not quite understand London, and slightly mistrusted it.’
      • ‘It's a common oversight because lighting technology isn't quite understood by homeowners.’
      • ‘Others feel the need for a bit of encouragement, a sense that the preacher understands or better still sympathises with the compulsions of their lives.’
      • ‘Her aunt and uncle understood and sympathized with her mother, feeling bad that someone in their family suffered a divorce.’
      • ‘Brit rolled her eyes, never quite understanding her sister's tomboyish streak.’
      • ‘He understands how his characters are shaped and trapped by circumstance, and that their circumstance can sometimes be simply ignorance.’
      • ‘Have you ever wondered why you can never seem to understand your significant other?’
      • ‘While Scott concedes that she is somewhat overbearing, he understands what the character is all about.’
      appreciate, recognize, realize, acknowledge, know, be aware of, be conscious of, be cognizant of, accept
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    3. 1.3 Interpret or view (something) in a particular way.
      ‘as the term is usually understood, legislation refers to regulations and directives’
      • ‘This point of view is essential to understanding the framework of national history.’
      • ‘I can't understand this point of view on any level, and hope I never will.’
      • ‘Many believe his discovery will change the face of science and how scientists understand the very nature of reality.’
      • ‘It will steer you towards companies that are small friendly and reliable - and usually excellent at understanding the needs of a family holiday.’
      • ‘It normally understood all points of view equally, but something seemed to be changing with it.’
      • ‘Science in this view is simply understanding their gods' methods and intentions.’
      • ‘The times change, but the enduring principles that help us to interpret and understand the world do not.’
      • ‘Although his writing is political, it is not political in the usually understood sense.’
      • ‘But Jack rejects this view and understands it for what it is.’
      • ‘The Journal is usually better at understanding economics than this.’
      • ‘In journalism classically understood, information flows from the press to the public.’
      • ‘As you can see, it's nearly impossible for a lay citizen to read a piece of legislation today and understand its impact.’
      • ‘A lot of people don't understand it and view it as something negative because of the extreme nature of it.’
      • ‘At the same time, the painting's title requires us to understand it as a view of New York.’
  • 2[with clause] Infer something from information received (often used as a polite formula in conversation)

    ‘I understand you're at art school’
    [with object] ‘as I understood it, she was flying back to New Zealand tomorrow’
    • ‘Anyone who knows me well understands that I am unable to carry on a conversation unless it leads to the topic of food.’
    • ‘I understand that the information here may challenge some and get a few smirks.’
    • ‘I understand that people want information and so would I.’
    • ‘We understand that this constant credit information might become irritating for some users.’
    • ‘They had not replied and he understood that this was because such information should be kept secret.’
    • ‘I understand that many of the resorts in the region have received cancellations.’
    • ‘Everyone understood that an anxious community wanted correct information.’
    • ‘Thirty people were on board and he understood 15 received medical treatment at the scene.’
    • ‘She understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA.’
    • ‘We understand that Mr Collins was satisfied with the treatment he received and we are pleased but not surprised to hear this.’
    • ‘He said he understood that schools in disadvantaged parts of the district should receive extra money.’
    • ‘The newspaper understands that its readers are subject to massive information overload.’
    • ‘We can understand that some people might be reluctant to give information.’
    • ‘We also understood that the problem of finding useful information was expanding as the web expanded.’
    • ‘He understood that for there to be a conversation there must be both speakers and listeners, and he regarded himself merely as one of the moderators.’
    • ‘Apart from the art department, I understand that the school gives a pretty good education.’
    • ‘The allocation of questions is done to an agreed formula, and I understand that it is done very carefully.’
    • ‘I understood that employers are not happy with an employee that receives too many personal phone calls.’
    • ‘He understands that he is going to receive a long prison sentence.’
    • ‘From our last phone conversation I understood she had a crush on him and he had one on her.’
    1. 2.1[with object] Regard (a missing word, phrase, or idea) as present; supply mentally.
      ‘“present company excepted” is always understood when sweeping generalizations are being made’
    2. 2.2[with object] Assume to be the case; take for granted.
      ‘he liked to play the field—that was understood’
      • ‘It should be understood that the grant is limited to less than $1,000 annually.’
      • ‘It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day.’
      • ‘It is understood the board viewed two different rough cuts of the film at the beginning of last month.’
      believe, be led to believe, be given to understand, think, conclude, come to the conclusion, deduce, infer, draw the inference, assume, surmise, fancy
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Old English understandan (see under-, stand).