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.
  3. superior power of discernment; enlightened intelligence: With her keen understanding she should have become a leader.
  4. knowledge of or familiarity with a particular thing; skill in dealing with or handling something: an understanding of accounting practice.
  5. a state of cooperative or mutually tolerant relations between people: To him, understanding and goodwill were the supreme virtues.
  6. a mutual agreement, especially of a private, unannounced, or tacit kind: They had an understanding about who would do the dishes.
  7. 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.
  8. Philosophy.
    1. the power of abstract thought; logical power.
    2. 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

before 1050; Middle English understandynge, late Old English understandincge (noun). See understand, -ing1, -ing2
Related formsun·der·stand·ing·ly, adverbnon·un·der·stand·ing, adjective, nounnon·un·der·stand·ing·ly, adverbself-un·der·stand·ing, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for self-understanding

Contemporary Examples of self-understanding

  • All of them involve how we see ourselves as a people and how our religious/spiritual views shape that self-understanding.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Faith-Based Big Tent

    Gene Robinson

    March 9, 2014

Historical Examples of self-understanding

British Dictionary definitions for self-understanding


  1. the ability to understand one's own actions


  1. the ability to learn, judge, make decisions, etc; intelligence or sense
  2. personal opinion or interpretation of a subjectmy understanding of your predicament
  3. a mutual agreement or compact, esp an informal or private one
  4. mainly British an unofficial engagement to be married
  5. philosophy archaic the mind, esp the faculty of reason
  6. on the understanding that with the condition that; providing
  1. sympathetic, tolerant, or wise towards people
  2. possessing judgment and intelligence
Derived Formsunderstandingly, 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

Word Origin and History for self-understanding



Old English understandincge "comprehension," from understand (q.v.). Meaning "mutual agreement" is attested from 1803.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper