Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.


Without knowing why, they understood perfectly now that neither had been ingenuous.

In most parts of Mesopotamia it was understood as readily as the native tongue.

She was afraid that she now understood the meaning of the bill she had received.

The word "ought" was not heeded at Constantinople, but the word "must" was understood fully there.

And when he spoke she understood why he had been irresistible to Priscilla.

She understood that Robin had been staying in Sidmouth for his health.

I understood precisely why the name of 'Reddy' was appropriate to you.

The less you understood the more credit your belief became to you.

If only she had understood, and not spoiled, next morning, the effect of her words.

Could he have understood what was passing in her mind he would have known better what next to say.


Old English understandan "comprehend, grasp the idea of," probably literally "stand in the midst of," from under + standan "to stand" (see stand). If this is the meaning, the under is not the usual word meaning "beneath," but from Old English under, from PIE *nter- "between, among" (cf. Sanskrit antar "among, between," Latin inter "between, among," Greek entera "intestines;" see inter-).

That is the suggestion in Barnhart, but other sources regard the "among, between, before, in the presence of" sense of Old English prefix and preposition under as other meanings of the same word. "Among" seems to be the sense in many Old English compounds that resemble understand, e.g. underniman "to receive," undersecan "to investigate," underginnan "to begin." It also seems to be the sense still in expressions such as under such circumstances.

Perhaps the ultimate sense is "be close to," cf. Greek epistamai "I know how, I know," literally "I stand upon." Similar formations are found in Old Frisian (understonda), Middle Danish (understande), while other Germanic languages use compounds meaning "stand before" (cf. German verstehen, represented in Old English by forstanden). For this concept, most Indo-European languages use figurative extensions of compounds that literally mean "put together," or "separate," or "take, grasp" (see comprehend). Old English oferstandan, Middle English overstonden, literally "over-stand" seem to have been used only in literal senses.


Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.