[ uhn-der-stan-ding ]
See synonyms for understanding on Thesaurus.com
  1. mental process of a person who comprehends; comprehension; personal interpretation: My understanding of the word does not agree with yours.

  2. intellectual faculties; intelligence; mind: a quick understanding.

  1. superior power of discernment; enlightened intelligence: With her keen understanding she should have become a leader.

  2. knowledge of or familiarity with a particular thing; skill in dealing with or handling something: an understanding of accounting practice.

  3. a state of cooperative or mutually tolerant relations between people: To him, understanding and goodwill were the supreme virtues.

  4. a mutual agreement, especially of a private, unannounced, or tacit kind: They had an understanding about who would do the dishes.

  5. 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.

  6. Philosophy.

    • the power of abstract thought; logical power.

    • Kantianism. the mental faculty resolving the sensory manifold into the transcendental unity of apperception.

  1. characterized by understanding; prompted by, based on, or demonstrating comprehension, intelligence, discernment, empathy, or the like: an understanding attitude.

Origin of understanding

First recorded before 1050; understand + -ing1

Other words from understanding

  • un·der·stand·ing·ly, adverb
  • non·un·der·stand·ing, adjective, noun
  • non·un·der·stand·ing·ly, adverb
  • self-un·der·stand·ing, noun

Words Nearby understanding

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use understanding in a sentence

  • I would ask you to imagine it translated into every language, a common material of understanding throughout all the world.

    The Salvaging Of Civilisation | H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • Our social life is aimless without it, we are a crowd without a common understanding.

    The Salvaging Of Civilisation | H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • The hopes of a man that is void of understanding are vain and deceitful: and dreams lift up fools.

  • The friars were exceedingly wroth, and combined to defeat the Generalʼs efforts to come to an understanding with the rebels.

    The Philippine Islands | John Foreman
  • The two enjoyed a mutual understanding from which he was excluded, a private intimacy that was spiritual, mental,— physical.

    The Wave | Algernon Blackwood

British Dictionary definitions for understanding


/ (ˌʌndəˈstændɪŋ) /

  1. the ability to learn, judge, make decisions, etc; intelligence or sense

  2. personal opinion or interpretation of a subject: my understanding of your predicament

  1. a mutual agreement or compact, esp an informal or private one

  2. mainly British an unofficial engagement to be married

  3. philosophy archaic the mind, esp the faculty of reason

  4. on the understanding that with the condition that; providing

  1. sympathetic, tolerant, or wise towards people

  2. possessing judgment and intelligence

Derived forms of understanding

  • understandingly, adverb

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012