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a. The ability by which one understands; intelligence: concepts that are beyond the understanding of a child.
b. The quality or condition of one who understands; comprehension: Do you have much understanding of calculus? See Synonyms at reason.
2. Individual or specified judgment or outlook; opinion: In my understanding, this is a good plan.
3. A usually implicit agreement between two or more people or groups: an understanding between neighbors over late-night noise.
4. A disposition to appreciate or share the feelings and thoughts of others; sympathy: Can't you show some understanding for the poor child?
Characterized by or having good sense or compassion: an understanding teacher.

un′der·stand′ing·ly adv.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. the ability to learn, judge, make decisions, etc; intelligence or sense
2. personal opinion or interpretation of a subject: my understanding of your predicament.
3. a mutual agreement or compact, esp an informal or private one
4. chiefly Brit an unofficial engagement to be married
5. (Philosophy) philosophy archaic the mind, esp the faculty of reason
6. on the understanding that with the condition that; providing
7. sympathetic, tolerant, or wise towards people
8. possessing judgment and intelligence
ˌunderˈstandingly adv
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˌʌn dərˈstæn dɪŋ)

1. the mental process of a person who understands; comprehension; personal interpretation.
2. intellectual faculties; intelligence.
3. knowledge of or familiarity with a particular thing.
4. a state of cooperation between people, nations, factions, etc.
5. a mutual agreement.
6. characterized by comprehension, empathy, or the like.
[before 1050]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


an impaired state of the power of speech or of the ability to comprehend language, caused by injury to the brain.
the power of entering into another’s personality and imaginatively experiencing his feelings. — empathie, adj.
an additional explanation; the use of more words to clarify further. — epexegetic, epexegetical, adj.
the science of intuition and reason as phenomena of the mind. — noological, adj.
-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. 'comprehension'

Both comprehension and understanding can be used to talk about someone's ability to understand something.

He noted Bond's apparent lack of comprehension.
The problems of solar navigation seem beyond comprehension.
A very narrow subject would have become too highly technical for general understanding.
2. 'understanding'

If you have an understanding of something, you have some knowledge of it, or you know how it works or what it means.

The past decade has seen huge advances in our general understanding of how the ear works.
The job requires an understanding of Spanish.

You cannot use comprehension with this meaning.

Understanding has another meaning. If there is understanding between people, they are friendly towards each other and trust each other.

What we need is greater understanding between management and workers.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.understanding - the cognitive condition of someone who understandsunderstanding - the cognitive condition of someone who understands; "he has virtually no understanding of social cause and effect"
knowing - a clear and certain mental apprehension
comprehension - an ability to understand the meaning or importance of something (or the knowledge acquired as a result); "how you can do that is beyond my comprehension"; "he was famous for his comprehension of American literature"
self-knowledge - an understanding of yourself and your goals and abilities
smattering - a slight or superficial understanding of a subject
appreciation, grasp, hold - understanding of the nature or meaning or quality or magnitude of something; "he has a good grasp of accounting practices"
grasping - understanding with difficulty; "the lecture was beyond his most strenuous graspings"
hindsight - understanding the nature of an event after it has happened; "hindsight is always better than foresight"
brainstorm, brainwave, insight - the clear (and often sudden) understanding of a complex situation
realization, realisation, recognition - coming to understand something clearly and distinctly; "a growing realization of the risk involved"; "a sudden recognition of the problem he faced"; "increasing recognition that diabetes frequently coexists with other chronic diseases"
2.understanding - the statement (oral or written) of an exchange of promisesunderstanding - the statement (oral or written) of an exchange of promises; "they had an agreement that they would not interfere in each other's business"; "there was an understanding between management and the workers"
conspiracy, confederacy - a secret agreement between two or more people to perform an unlawful act
fair-trade agreement - an agreement (illegal in the United States) between the manufacturer of a trademarked item of merchandise and its retail distributors to sell the item at a price at or above the price set by the manufacturer
covenant - (Bible) an agreement between God and his people in which God makes certain promises and requires certain behavior from them in return
unilateral contract - a one-sided agreement whereby you promise to do (or refrain from doing) something in return for a performance (not a promise)
sales agreement, sale - an agreement (or contract) in which property is transferred from the seller (vendor) to the buyer (vendee) for a fixed price in money (paid or agreed to be paid by the buyer); "the salesman faxed the sales agreement to his home office"
statement - a message that is stated or declared; a communication (oral or written) setting forth particulars or facts etc; "according to his statement he was in London on that day"
term, condition - (usually plural) a statement of what is required as part of an agreement; "the contract set out the conditions of the lease"; "the terms of the treaty were generous"
bargain, deal - an agreement between parties (usually arrived at after discussion) fixing obligations of each; "he made a bargain with the devil"; "he rose to prominence through a series of shady deals"
working agreement - an informal agreement to work together
gentlemen's agreement - a personal agreement based on honor and not legally binding
written agreement - a legal document summarizing the agreement between parties
submission - an agreement between parties in a dispute to abide by the decision of an arbiter
entente, entente cordiale - a friendly understanding between political powers
oral contract - an agreement that is not in writing and is not signed by the parties but is a real existing contract that lacks only the formal requirement of a memorandum to render it enforceable in litigation
reservation - the written record or promise of an arrangement by which accommodations are secured in advance
settlement - a conclusive resolution of a matter and disposition of it
severance agreement - an agreement on the terms on which an employee will leave
suicide pact - an agreement by two or more people to commit suicide together at a given place and time; "the two lovers killed themselves in a suicide pact"
3.understanding - an inclination to support or be loyal to or to agree with an opinionunderstanding - an inclination to support or be loyal to or to agree with an opinion; "his sympathies were always with the underdog"; "I knew I could count on his understanding"
inclination, tendency, disposition - an attitude of mind especially one that favors one alternative over others; "he had an inclination to give up too easily"; "a tendency to be too strict"
4.understanding - the capacity for rational thought or inference or discriminationunderstanding - the capacity for rational thought or inference or discrimination; "we are told that man is endowed with reason and capable of distinguishing good from evil"
faculty, mental faculty, module - one of the inherent cognitive or perceptual powers of the mind
Adj.1.understanding - characterized by understanding based on comprehension and discernment and empathyunderstanding - characterized by understanding based on comprehension and discernment and empathy; "an understanding friend"
perceptive - having the ability to perceive or understand; keen in discernment; "a perceptive eye"; "a perceptive observation"
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


1. perception, knowledge, grasp, sense, know-how (informal), intelligence, judgment, awareness, appreciation, insight, skill, penetration, mastery, comprehension, familiarity with, discernment, proficiency They have to have a basic understanding of computers.
perception ignorance, incomprehension, obtuseness
3. agreement, deal, promise, arrangement, accord, contract, bond, pledge, bargain, pact, compact, concord, gentlemen's agreement We had not set a date but there was an understanding between us.
agreement dispute, disagreement
4. belief, view, opinion, impression, interpretation, feeling, idea, conclusion, notion, conviction, judgment, assumption, point of view, perception, suspicion, viewpoint, hunch, way of thinking, estimation, supposition, sneaking suspicion, funny feeling It is my understanding that this has been going on for many years.
1. sympathetic, kind, compassionate, considerate, kindly, accepting, patient, sensitive, forgiving, discerning, tolerant, responsive, perceptive, forbearing Her boss, who was very understanding, gave her time off.
sympathetic insensitive, unsympathetic, inconsiderate, intolerant, unfeeling, strict
"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will" [Martin Luther King Jr Letter from Birmingham Jail]
"The ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding" [Francis Bacon Novum Organum]
"I shall light a candle of understanding in thine heart, which shall not be put out" Bible: II Esdras
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


1. Intellectual hold:
Informal: savvy.
2. The faculty of thinking, reasoning, and acquiring and applying knowledge:
brain (often used in plural), brainpower, intellect, intelligence, mentality, mind, sense, wit.
Slang: smart (used in plural).
3. An act or state of agreeing between parties regarding a course of action:
Cognizant of and comprehending the needs, feelings, problems, and views of others:
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
مُتَفَهِّمتَفاهُمتَفَهُّمفَهْم، إدْراك
értelmi képesség
이해심 있는
ที่เข้าใจ อย่างเห็นอกเห็นใจ
thông cảm


A. ADJ [person] → comprensivo; [smile] → de comprensión
to be understanding about sthser comprensivo (respecto a algo)
she was very understanding about itfue muy comprensiva
B. N
1. (= faculty) → entendimiento m
it was beyond my understandingiba más allá de mi entendimiento
the peace that passeth all understanding (Bible) → la paz que sobrepasa a todo entendimiento
2. [of sth] (= comprehension) → comprensión f; (= awareness) → conciencia f
we need to test children's understanding of factshay que poner a prueba la comprensión que los niños tienen de los hechos
our understanding of these processes is still poortodavía no comprendemos muy bien estos procesos
a basic understanding of computers is essentialse necesitan unos conocimientos básicos de informática
to have a better or greater understanding of sth (= comprehend better) → entender or comprender mejor algo; (= be more aware of) → tener mayor or más conciencia de algo
to have little/no understanding of sthsaber muy poco/nada de algo
a shift in public understanding of the issues of crime and punishmentun cambio de la conciencia pública con respecto a la cuestión de los crímenes y los castigos
3. (= interpretation) → interpretación f
what's your understanding of the Prime Minister's statement?¿cómo interpreta usted la declaración del Primer Ministro?¿cuál es su interpretación de la declaración del Primer Ministro?
that's my understanding of the situationesa es mi interpretación de la situación, así es como veo or interpreto la situación
4. (= sympathy) → comprensión f
thank you for your kindness and understandingle agradezco su amabilidad y comprensión
to show no/little understanding of sthno mostrar comprensión/mostrar muy poca comprensión hacia algo
5. (= belief) it was my understanding that ...; my understanding was thattenía entendido que ..., según yo creía ...
6. (= agreement) → acuerdo m
to come to an understanding (with sb)llegar a un acuerdo (con algn)
to have an understanding (with sb)tener un acuerdo (con algn)
on the understanding thata condición de que + subjun
on the understanding that he paysa condición de que pague
to reach an understanding (with sb)llegar a un acuerdo (con algn)
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


She's very understanding → Elle est très compréhensive.
Fortunately, he had an understanding wife → Heureusement, sa femme était compréhensive.
(= grasp) [language, concept] → compréhension f
The job requires an understanding of Spanish → Le poste exige une bonne compréhension de l'espagnol.
to have an understanding of sth → avoir une bonne compréhension de qch
They have to have a basic understanding of computers → Ils doivent avoir une bonne compréhension de l'informatique de base.
to have little understanding of sth → méconnaître qch
to have a better understanding of sth → avoir une meilleure compréhension de qch
(= informal agreement) → arrangement m
There was an understanding between us → Nous avions un arrangement.
to come to an understanding with sb → parvenir à un arrangement avec qn
to come to an understanding with sb about sth → parvenir à un arrangement avec qn sur la question de qch
on the understanding that ... → étant bien entendu que ...
(= sympathy) → compréhension f
She showed great love and understanding → Elle fit preuve de beaucoup d'amour et de compréhension.
(= friendliness) → entente f
There was complete understanding between us → Il y avait une entente totale entre nous.
greater understanding between → une meilleure entente entre
(= interpretation) my understanding is that ... → à ce que je comprends ...
My understanding is there has been a thorough investigation → À ce que je comprends, il y a eu une enquête approfondie.
Our understanding is that they wanted to be in Washington → À ce que nous comprenons, ils voulaient être à Washington.
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


adjverständnisvoll; he asked me to be understandinger bat mich um Verständnis
(= intelligence)Auffassungsgabe f; (= knowledge)Kenntnisse pl; (= comprehension, sympathy)Verständnis nt; her understanding of childrenihr Verständnis ntfür Kinder; because of his complete lack of understanding for the problemsda ihm jedes Verständnis für die Probleme fehlte; my understanding of the situation is that …ich verstehe die Situation so, dass …; his conduct is beyond human understandingsein Verhalten ist absolut unbegreiflich; she’s a woman of great understandingsie ist eine sehr verständnisvolle Frau; it was my understanding that …ich nahm an or ich war der Meinung, dass …; he has a good understanding of the problemer kennt sich mit dem Problem gut aus; to promote international understandingum die internationale Verständigung zu fördern
(= agreement)Abmachung f, → Vereinbarung f, → Verständigung f; to come to or reach an understanding with somebodyeine Abmachung or Vereinbarung mit jdm treffen; Susie and I have an understandingSusie und ich haben unsere Abmachung; a degree of understandingeine gewisse Übereinstimmung, ein gewisses Einvernehmen
(= assumption)Voraussetzung f; on the understanding that …unter der Voraussetzung, dass …; on this understandingunter dieser Voraussetzung
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


1. adj (person) → comprensivo/a; (smile) → indulgente
2. n
a. (intelligence) → comprensione f
his understanding of the situation is that ... → il modo in cui vede la situazione è che...
it was my understanding that ... → quello che ho capito io era che...+ sub
b. (sympathy) → simpatia, comprensione f
c. (agreement) → accordo, intesa
to come to an understanding with sb → giungere ad un accordo con qn
on the understanding that he pays → a patto che or a condizione che paghi lui
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(andəˈstӕnd) verbpast tense, past participle ˌunderˈstood (-ˈstud)
1. to see or know the meaning of (something). I can't understand his absence; Speak slowly to foreigners so that they'll understand you.
2. to know (eg a person) thoroughly. She understands children/dogs.
3. to learn or realize (something), eg from information received. At first I didn't understand how ill she was; I understood that you were planning to leave today.
ˌunderˈstandable adjective
that can be understood. His anger is quite understandable.
ˌunderˈstanding adjective
(of a person) good at knowing how other people feel; sympathetic. an understanding person; Try to be more understanding!
1. the power of thinking clearly. a man of great understanding.
2. the ability to sympathize with another person's feelings. His kindness and understanding were a great comfort to her.
3. a (state of) informal agreement. The two men have come to / reached an understanding after their disagreement.
make (oneself) understood
to make one's meaning or intentions clear. He tried speaking German to them, but couldn't make himself understood.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.


مُتَفَهِّم chápavý forstående verständnisvoll που δείχνει κατανόηση comprensivo ymmärtäväinen compréhensif uviđavan comprensivo 話がわかる 이해심 있는 begripvol forståelsesfull wyrozumiały compreensivo понимающий förstående ที่เข้าใจ อย่างเห็นอกเห็นใจ anlayış thông cảm 善解人意的
Multilingual Translator © HarperCollins Publishers 2009
References in classic literature ?
Yes, I said, but I must first come to an understanding with you, and remind you of what I have mentioned in the course of this discussion, and at many other times.
I understand you, he replied; not perfectly, for you seem to me to be describing a task which is really tremendous; but, at any rate, I understand you to say that knowledge and being, which the science of dialectic contemplates, are clearer than the notions of the arts, as they are termed, which proceed from hypotheses only: these are also contemplated by the understanding, and not by the senses: yet, because they start from hypotheses and do not ascend to a principle, those who contemplate them appear to you not to exercise the higher reason upon them, although when a first principle is added to them they are cognizable by the higher reason.
You have quite conceived my meaning, I said; and now, corresponding to these four divisions, let there be four faculties in the soul-reason answering to the highest, understanding to the second, faith (or conviction) to the third, and perception of shadows to the last-and let there be a scale of them, and let us suppose that the several faculties have clearness in the same degree that their objects have truth.
We may call these two active and passive understanding respectively.
It is not necessary, in order that a man should "understand" a word, that he should "know what it means," in the sense of being able to say "this word means so-and-so." Understanding words does not consist in knowing their dictionary definitions, or in being able to specify the objects to which they are appropriate.
** On the understanding of words, a very admirable little book is Ribot's "Evolution of General Ideas," Open Court Co., 1899.
To illustrate what is meant by "understanding" words and sentences, let us take instances of various situations.
Such "understanding" may be taken to belong to the nerves and brain, being habits which they have acquired while the language was being learnt.
His face wore that expression when his dry hands clenched with vexation at her not understanding a sum in arithmetic, when rising from his chair he would walk away from her, repeating in a low voice the same words several times over.
So, when I said you had less understanding than we, I did not mean that you had less understanding, you understand, but that you had less standundering, so to speak.
"True that we have less understanding?" asked the Champion.
Then they won't dare say you have less understanding, because you understand as much as they do."