[gras-ping, grahs-]


greedy; avaricious: a sly, grasping man.
being used to grasp or tending to grasp; tenacious.

Origin of grasping

First recorded in 1540–50; grasp + -ing2
Related formsgrasp·ing·ly, adverbgrasp·ing·ness, nouno·ver·grasp·ing, adjectiveun·grasp·ing, adjective

Synonyms for grasping


[grasp, grahsp]

verb (used with object)

to seize and hold by or as if by clasping with the fingers or arms.
to seize upon; hold firmly.
to get hold of mentally; comprehend; understand: I don't grasp your meaning.

verb (used without object)

to make an attempt to seize, or a motion of seizing, something (usually followed by at or for): a drowning man grasping at straws; to grasp for an enemy's rifle.


the act of grasping or gripping, as with the hands or arms: to make a grasp at something.
a hold or grip: to have a firm grasp of a rope.
one's arms or hands, in embracing or gripping: He took her in his grasp.
one's power of seizing and holding; reach: to have a thing within one's grasp.
hold, possession, or mastery: to wrest power from the grasp of a usurper.
mental hold or capacity; power to understand.
broad or thorough comprehension: a good grasp of computer programming.

Origin of grasp

1350–1400; Middle English graspen, grapsen; cognate with Low German grapsen; akin to Old English gegræppian to seize (see grapple)
Related formsgrasp·a·ble, adjectivegrasp·er, noungrasp·less, adjectivere·grasp, verb (used with object)un·grasp·a·ble, adjectiveun·grasped, adjective

Synonyms for grasp

1. grip, clutch; grab. 9. clutches. 10. scope, comprehension.

Synonym study

1. See catch. 10. Grasp, reach refer to the power of seizing, either concretely or figuratively. Grasp suggests actually seizing and closing the hand upon something (or, figuratively, thoroughly comprehending something) and therefore refers to what is within one's possession or immediate possibility of possession: a good grasp of a problem; immense mental grasp. Reach suggests a stretching out of (usually) the hand to touch, strike, or, if possible, seize something; it therefore refers to a potentiality of possession that requires an effort. Figuratively, it implies perhaps a faint conception of something still too far beyond one to be definitely and clearly understood.

Antonyms for grasp Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for grasping

Contemporary Examples of grasping

Historical Examples of grasping

  • At first he was angry, as he accused her of being mean-spirited and grasping.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • Grasping his rifle his looks were again bent on the Indian near him.

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • He flung out a hand with the plausible design of grasping Kirkwood by the collar.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • They prevented them from growing hard, grasping, and discontented with their lot.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • Grasping the situation I replied that I did not like my barber.

British Dictionary definitions for grasping



greedy; avaricious; rapacious
Derived Formsgraspingly, adverb



to grip (something) firmly with or as if with the hands
(when intr, often foll by at) to struggle, snatch, or grope (for)
(tr) to understand, esp with effort


the act of grasping
a grip or clasp, as of a hand
the capacity to accomplish (esp in the phrase within one's grasp)
total rule or possession
understanding; comprehension
Derived Formsgraspable, adjectivegrasper, noun

Word Origin for grasp

C14: from Low German grapsen; related to Old English græppian to seize, Old Norse grāpa to steal
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

Word Origin and History for grasping

"greedy, acquisitive," late 14c., present participle adjective from grasp (v.).



mid-14c., "to reach for, feel around," possibly a metathesis of grapsen, from Old English *græpsan "to touch, feel," from Proto-Germanic *grap-, *grab- (cf. East Frisian grapsen "to grasp," Middle Dutch grapen "to seize, grasp," Old English grapian "to touch, feel, grope"), from PIE root *ghrebh- (see grab). Sense of "seize" first recorded mid-16c. Figurative use from c.1600; of intellectual matters from 1680s. Related: Grasped; grasping. The noun is from 1560s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with grasping


In addition to the idiom beginning with grasp

  • grasp at straws

also see:

  • get a fix on (grasp of)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.