Word of the Day – Prehensile

Word of the Day : December 15, 2020

adjective pree-HEN-sil


1 : adapted for seizing or grasping especially by wrapping around

2 : gifted with mental grasp or moral or aesthetic perception

Did you know?

You may be familiar with prehensile from the animal world: monkeys have prehensile tails, elephants have prehensile trunks, giraffes have prehensile tongues, etc. But can you comprehend where this word comes from? Can you apprehend its derivation? The Latin verb prehendere, meaning “to seize or grasp,” is the ancestor of a number of English terms, including comprehendapprehend, and prehensilePrehensile came into English in the 18th century via French préhensile, from Latin prehensus, the past participle of prehendere.


“The seahorse has a long, tubular snout with a round, toothless mouth. Normally they remain motionless, holding onto coral, rocks or seaweed with their prehensile tail.” — Terry Lilley, The Garden Island (Lihue, Hawaii), 11 Oct. 2020

“All his life, Freud was … a compelling presence, a brilliant conversationalist and a munificent host…. The art historian John Richardson was struck by his phenomenal memory for verse, from Lord Rochester to W. H. Auden. Delving in the prehensile memory also speaks to serious self-awareness.” — Alex Danchev, The Times Higher Education Supplement (London), 9 Feb. 2012