Wednesday, April 2, 2008


I thought prehensile just meant "able to be bent at any point in its length" -- a monkey's tail is prehensile, but apparently it specifically means "adapted for seizing, grasping, or taking hold of something." What is the root?

Apparently it comes from Latin prehendere "to grasp, to seize," related to hedera "ivy" (ivy clings to things).

I hadn't realized it, but this root is also present in words like apprehend or comprehend: to apprehend a criminal is literally to "seize" him and to comprehend an idea is literally to "grasp" it.

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