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Origin of misunderstanding

late Middle English word dating back to 1400–50; see origin at mis-1, understanding
Related formsmis·un·der·stand·ing·ly, adverb

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verb (used with object), mis·un·der·stood, mis·un·der·stand·ing.
  1. to take (words, statements, etc.) in a wrong sense; understand wrongly.
  2. to fail to understand or interpret rightly the words or behavior of.

Origin of misunderstand

First recorded in 1150–1200, misunderstand is from the Middle English word misunderstanden. See mis-1, understand
Related formsmis·un·der·stand·er, noun

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for misunderstanding


  1. a failure to understand properly
  2. a disagreement


verb -stands, -standing or -stood
  1. to fail to understand properly
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 misunderstanding

"want of understanding," mid-15c., from present participle of misunderstand.

When misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood. [Lionel Trilling]

Meaning "dissention, disagreement" is first recorded 1640s.



c.1200; see mis- (1) + understand. Related: Misunderstood; misunderstanding.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper