August 06, 2011
- prehensile (adjective)
- What does it mean?
- : capable of grasping especially by wrapping around
- How do you use it?
- A monkey's prehensile tail helps it grasp branches as it swings and hangs from the tops of trees.
- Are you a word wiz?
Many words hang from the same family tree as "prehensile," and they all trace to a Latin word meaning "to grasp, seize." Which of the words below do you think belongs to the same word family as "prehensile"?"Prehensile" and "apprehend" both have their roots in the Latin "prehendere," meaning "to seize or grasp." It's not hard to grasp the relationship of these words to "prehendere." "Prehensile" refers to actual grasping or taking hold -- monkeys have prehensile tails and elephants have prehensile trunks, both used for holding things. "Apprehend" refers to seizing in a different way, as in "police officers apprehended the burglar." "Apprehend" can also be about grasping an idea or concept, as in "they apprehended the urgency of the request." "Comprehend," another descendant of "prehendere," also refers to grasping the significance of something, as in "she comprehends the reason for certain rules."