v. grasped, grasp·ing, grasps
1. To take hold of or seize firmly with the hand, the foot, another body part, or an instrument: The elephant grasped the branch with its trunk.
2. To hold with the arms; embrace.
3. To take hold of intellectually; comprehend. See Synonyms at understand.
1. To make a motion of seizing, snatching, or clutching.
2. To show eager and prompt willingness or acceptance: grasps at any opportunity.
1. The act of grasping.
a. A firm hold or grip.
b. An embrace.
3. The ability or power to seize or attain; reach: Victory in the election was within her grasp.
4. Understanding; comprehension: "only a vague intuitive grasp of the meaning of greatness in literature" (Gilbert Highet).
grasp at straws
To search in desperation for a solution to a difficulty.
grasp the nettle
To take on a difficult problem directly and energetically.
[Middle English graspen; see ghrebh-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.