grasp (v.)

mid-14c., "to reach, grope, feel around," possibly a metathesis of grapsen, from Old English *græpsan "to touch, feel," from Proto-Germanic *grap-, *grab- (source also of East Frisian grapsen "to grasp," Middle Dutch grapen "to seize, grasp," Old English grapian "to touch, feel, grope"), from PIE root *ghrebh- (1) "to seize, reach" (see grab (v.)). With verb-formative -s- as in cleanse. Sense of "seize" first recorded mid-16c. Transitive use by 17c. Figurative use from c. 1600; of intellectual matters from 1680s. Related: Grasped; grasping.

grasp (n.)

1560s, "a handle," from grasp (v.). As "act of grasping" from c. 1600; also "power of grasping." Meaning "power of intellect" is from 1680s.

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?
[Browning, "Andrea del Sarto"]

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Definitions of grasp from WordNet
grasp (n.)
understanding of the nature or meaning or quality or magnitude of something;
he has a good grasp of accounting practices
Synonyms: appreciation / hold
grasp (n.)
the limit of capability;
Synonyms: compass / range / reach
grasp (n.)
an intellectual hold or understanding;
a terrible power had her in its grasp
Synonyms: grip
grasp (n.)
the act of grasping;
Synonyms: clasp / clench / clutch / clutches / grip / hold
grasp (v.)
hold firmly;
Synonyms: hold on
grasp (v.)
get the meaning of something;
Synonyms: grok / get the picture / comprehend / savvy / dig / compass / apprehend