- mental process of a person who comprehends; comprehension; personal interpretation: My understanding of the word does not agree with yours.
- intellectual faculties; intelligence; mind: a quick understanding.
- superior power of discernment; enlightened intelligence: With her keen understanding she should have become a leader.
- knowledge of or familiarity with a particular thing; skill in dealing with or handling something: an understanding of accounting practice.
- a state of cooperative or mutually tolerant relations between people: To him, understanding and goodwill were the supreme virtues.
- a mutual agreement, especially of a private, unannounced, or tacit kind: They had an understanding about who would do the dishes.
- an agreement regulating joint activity or settling differences, often informal or preliminary in character: After hours of negotiation, no understanding on a new contract was reached.
- the power of abstract thought; logical power.
- Kantianism.the mental faculty resolving the sensory manifold into the transcendental unity of apperception.
- characterized by understanding; prompted by, based on, or demonstrating comprehension, intelligence, discernment, empathy, or the like: an understanding attitude.
Origin of understanding
- to perceive the meaning of; grasp the idea of; comprehend: to understand Spanish; I didn't understand your question.
- to be thoroughly familiar with; apprehend clearly the character, nature, or subtleties of: to understand a trade.
- to assign a meaning to; interpret: He understood her suggestion as a complaint.
- to grasp the significance, implications, or importance of: He does not understand responsibility.
- to regard as firmly communicated; take as agreed or settled: I understand that you will repay this loan in 30 days.
- to learn or hear: I understand that you are going out of town.
- to accept as true; believe: I understand that you are trying to be truthful, but you are wrong.
- to construe in a particular way: You are to understand the phrase literally.
- to supply mentally (something that is not expressed).
- to perceive what is meant; grasp the information conveyed: She told them about it in simple words, hoping they would understand.
- to accept tolerantly or sympathetically: If you can't do it, I'll understand.
- to have knowledge or background, as on a particular subject: He understands about boats.
- to have a systematic interpretation or rationale, as in a field or area of knowledge: He can repeat every rule in the book, but he just doesn't understand.
Origin of understand
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for understanding
Nothing made Groucho funnier than having this Margaret Dumont around not understanding the jokes.Patton Oswalt on Fighting Conservatives With Satire
January 6, 2015
Understanding my own dreams had a lot to do with getting me off the juice.The Story Behind Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance Smile
January 3, 2015
As she discussed her understanding of the voting rights campaign and how she planned to recreate it, I grew more relieved.Dr. King Goes to Hollywood: The Flawed History of ‘Selma’
January 2, 2015
My understanding was that according to most Christian beliefs, being trans or gay was a sin, cut and dry.Dear Leelah, We Will Fight On For You: A Letter to a Dead Trans Teen
January 1, 2015
Now half-awake, we need all the help we can get in understanding our situation.American Democracy Under Threat for 250 Years
December 28, 2014
Then you will understand, and understanding, you will admire his courage.Ancient Man
Hendrik Willem van Loon
Jasper Lanning and Bill Dozier exchanged glances of understanding.Way of the Lawless
Between us and the understanding of that love bereavement is often a great obstacle.
I am willing to believe that the lack of understanding was my own fault, but a lack of understanding there was.
In music he thought he did understand her, but was in truth far from understanding her.Weighed and Wanting
- the ability to learn, judge, make decisions, etc; intelligence or sense
- personal opinion or interpretation of a subjectmy understanding of your predicament
- a mutual agreement or compact, esp an informal or private one
- mainly British an unofficial engagement to be married
- philosophy archaic the mind, esp the faculty of reason
- on the understanding that with the condition that; providing
- sympathetic, tolerant, or wise towards people
- possessing judgment and intelligence
- (may take a clause as object) to know and comprehend the nature or meaning ofI understand you; I understand what you mean
- (may take a clause as object) to realize or grasp (something)he understands your position
- (tr; may take a clause as object) to assume, infer, or believeI understand you are thinking of marrying
- (tr) to know how to translate or readcan you understand Spanish?
- (tr; may take a clause as object; often passive) to accept as a condition or provisoit is understood that children must be kept quiet
- (tr) to be sympathetic to or compatible withwe understand each other
Word Origin and History for understanding
Old English understandincge "comprehension," from understand (q.v.). Meaning "mutual agreement" is attested from 1803.
Old English understandan "comprehend, grasp the idea of," probably literally "stand in the midst of," from under + standan "to stand" (see stand). If this is the meaning, the under is not the usual word meaning "beneath," but from Old English under, from PIE *nter- "between, among" (cf. Sanskrit antar "among, between," Latin inter "between, among," Greek entera "intestines;" see inter-).
That is the suggestion in Barnhart, but other sources regard the "among, between, before, in the presence of" sense of Old English prefix and preposition under as other meanings of the same word. "Among" seems to be the sense in many Old English compounds that resemble understand, e.g. underniman "to receive," undersecan "to investigate," underginnan "to begin." It also seems to be the sense still in expressions such as under such circumstances.
Perhaps the ultimate sense is "be close to," cf. Greek epistamai "I know how, I know," literally "I stand upon." Similar formations are found in Old Frisian (understonda), Middle Danish (understande), while other Germanic languages use compounds meaning "stand before" (cf. German verstehen, represented in Old English by forstanden). For this concept, most Indo-European languages use figurative extensions of compounds that literally mean "put together," or "separate," or "take, grasp" (see comprehend). Old English oferstandan, Middle English overstonden, literally "over-stand" seem to have been used only in literal senses.
Idioms and Phrases with understanding
see give to understand.